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Yami Gautam is on a high after the super success of Uri

To read my name in the credits of a film like Uri was a moving experience, says Yami

By Priyanka Roy
  • Published 31.01.19, 10:48 PM
  • Updated 31.01.19, 10:48 PM
  • 4 mins read
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Yami Gautam with co-star Vicky Kaushal at the Uri success bash in Mumbai recently. The Telegraph picture

How’s the josh?’ is my new autograph,” Yami Gautam tells t2 when we dial her to talk about the success of her latest film Uri that stars Vicky Kaushal and has Yami in the role of an intelligence officer. The film, based on the 2016 surgical strikes in retaliation to Pakistan’s attack on the base camp in Uri, is not only a Rs 100-crore-plus hit, it has also become the subject of much discussion — college campus to office canteen. A chat with Yami on what the success of Uri means to her and her career. 

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Priyanka Roy:

Congratulations for Uri. Three weeks after release, are you still getting a lot of praise? 

Yami Gautam:

I am! There’s been so much praise, but I never get tired of hearing the same things over and over again! Right after the special screening we had for some army personnel, a senior officer came up to say how much he had loved my portrayal of Pallavi. He told me that’s exactly how special agents behave. He knew that I wouldn’t have met any real-life intelligence officers because of the kind of secrecy and protocol that comes with the job, and he was surprised that I had managed to keep it so natural and organic. During my prep, I did take help from Aditya’s (Dhar, the film’s director) anecdotes based on his interactions with a couple of intelligence officers.

‘How’s the josh?’ has become so big. I am getting videos and memes, people are making their year-and-a-half-old kids say the line… and they say it so cutely even though they can’t even pronounce properly! People are sending me clips screaming ‘Bharat Mata ki jai’ and that gives me goosebumps.

Priyanka Roy:

Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi used the line on a recent public platform…

Yami Gautam:

The moment it happened, it was tweeted widely and I was like, ‘What?! This is unreal!’ As a team, we were both surprised and so proud when that happened.

Priyanka Roy:

When did you realise that Uri was going to get so big?

Yami Gautam:

See, we knew that Uri was special and would connect with the audience. The subject was very powerful and we knew that Aditya’s vision was very strong. When you have the director say, ‘I want to make a film that will not only find favour with the audience, but one which the army will also love’, then that automatically makes you confident that this will be a genuinely good film. But to anticipate that it would become such a huge phenomenon and translate into an experience so personal for so many people, has been beyond my imagination. I still haven’t been able to process it completely. 

Priyanka Roy:

Looking back, what was the biggest high and the biggest challenge of playing Pallavi?

Yami Gautam:

The biggest challenge was to play this character with almost no references at my disposal. I was constantly second-guessing her moves and motivations. I kept thinking, ‘Should I do this like this? Should I walk like that?’ We did a lot of workshops and I would constantly keep badgering Aditya with questions. After a point, he told me that he could give me a lot of examples on how I should go about playing her, but till the time I didn’t internalise Pallavi, I couldn’t project or play this character. The key was to be as ‘normal’ and natural as possible because they are like that — you could have an intelligence officer sitting next to you and you won’t even know what they do. They work in covert missions, so their identity has to be under wraps.

They are extremely unpretentious and for me, understanding the layering and sub-layering of the character at the writing level became the key. And then a haircut also happened! (Laughs)

The biggest high was when we watched the film… I just felt this huge surge of pride, I can’t pinpoint an exact moment or reason for it. To read my name in the credits of a film like Uri was a moving experience. 

Priyanka Roy:

Like Pallavi in Uri, your Gulnaar in the recent Batti Gul Meter Chalu was a no-nonsense, modern woman who walks the talk. Are you now naturally gravitating towards such characters?

Yami Gautam:

The idea has always been that, actually. If you go back to my debut film Vicky Donor, Aashima was a strong girl with her own sense of purpose. I felt even Supriya in Kaabil was strong in her own way, though circumstances were against her. I am not saying that every time it’s happened or every time it will be possible, but the attempt has always been to play women like that, to be as diverse as possible and to resonate with the audience. But playing today’s woman doesn’t mean you have to have a lot of lines or scream or you have to whack someone. Your character has to have some purpose and be relevant to the story.

I am glad that such roles are coming my way, of which Uri is a prime example. This was the first time a filmmaker thought of me in a different dimension and not as a sweet girl in a love story. I was fortunate to get a character who has so many shades — she’s no-nonsense, yet graceful and she is just as good, if not better, than the men in a job that’s predominantly thought to be a man’s domain.  

Priyanka Roy:

After a lull, how much of a push does the success of Uri give your career?

Yami Gautam:

After any film, whether it’s a success or not, you have to move on. If a film doesn’t work and you land with a thud, you have to just brush it off and get on to the next thing. Of course when a film is a success, then there is a huge change in the opportunities that start coming your way. I am really looking forward to what lies ahead. Uri has given me the confidence to believe in my choices and to take fearless decisions.