HT Brunch Cover Story: What makes Yami and Surilie Gautam soul sisters




For actors and sisters Yami and Surilie Gautam, ‘home’ is always where the other sister is. Sure, film commitments mean they are often separated – Surilie works in the Punjabi film industry and must often return to her home state to shoot, promote films and so on. But the women have lived together in Mumbai since 2016, and have never been separated for a prolonged period of time.

Although Yami and Surilie have very different tastes, it rarely leads to full-blown fights
(
Rohan Shrestha
)

But India has been locked down since March 25 to hopefully avoid a massive spread of the Covid-19 virus. And while Yami is in Mumbai, Surilie, who had gone to Chandigarh to promote her film Posti, is now there till the country is unlocked again. “I kept telling Yami to come to Chandigarh so we could all be together, but she kept postponing it because of meetings and work commitments, and then it became too risky to travel,” says Surilie. “When the lockdown was announced, my heart sank. We are all so worried about her. She is very strong and independent, but she is all alone.”

Bridging the distance

Of course, the sisters use all the tech they possibly can to keep in touch. In fact, on Surilie’s birthday, Yami baked her a chocolate cake and Surilie ‘cut’ it on FaceTime. “She always bakes me a cake on my birthday, so why should this have been any different?” laughs Surilie.

“I hope the lockdown teaches us to preserve our resources and value things, especially kitchen essentials!” –Yami Gautam

Though Yami is longing to be with her family in Chandigarh, she is focusing on the positive. “I’m trying not to think, ‘Oh, I’m all alone.’ Because that wouldn’t change anything, but the situation would feel worse to me. I am blessed that we all are safe and are having decent meals. Like everything, this too shall pass.”

Yami’s only company at home right now is her household help, and the actor keeps herself busy by meditating, painting, doing yoga, baking and cooking. “We are from Himachal and I love Himachali cuisine. Now I am learning to cook some delicacies,” she says. On Navratri, she used Surilie’s besan ka laddoo recipe “She is forever making laddoos and I missed them. So I made them myself,” says Yami.

“Yami has just starting cooking. So when I meet her, I am going to send her directly to the kitchen to cook me something. After all, the proof of the pudding is in the eating!” – Surilie Gautam

“She was always baking, but now she has started cooking also. And it looks so professional,” says Surilie. “She sends us pictures of what she is cooking and then she calls and says: ‘Bahut hi swaad bana hain!’ When I meet her I am going to send her directly to the kitchen to cook me something. After all, the proof of the pudding is in its eating!”

Clearly, the two are completely bonded, even though Surilie is an extrovert and Yami is introverted. “I need family when I come home from work,” says Yami. “We don’t have a social life in Mumbai We know we are here to work. Also, we enjoy each other’s company so much that we don’t really need anyone else!”

“She is forever making laddoos and I missed them. So I made them myself” –Yami Gautam

Their ideas of chilling out are different. “Yami wants me to watch series like Narcos, The Crown, Game of Thrones, while I insist she watches a random Punjabi film! And we both ignore each other’s recommendations,” says Surilie. “If I get upset, she can’t take that at all. So emotional blackmail works like a charm! When we were kids, I’d demand that she play a horse, and she’d would be on all fours, carrying me on her back! ”

Yami, who wanted to become an IAS officer, was quite a nerd growing up; Dress, Ona Studio, jacket, Esse by Sahib and Sunayana

Yami, who wanted to become an IAS officer, was quite a nerd growing up; Dress, Ona Studio, jacket, Esse by Sahib and Sunayana
(
Rohan Shrestha
)

Although they have very different tastes, the sisters don’t really fight, says Surilie. “She rarely gets angry,” says Surilie. “Even if she does, at the end of it, it is she who manaos me. I am the man in the relationship! Yami will say sorry even when it is my fault! And I let her make it up to me with gifts!”

Screen girls

While Yami has made a mark in Bollywood with performances in Vicky Donor (2012), Kaabil (2017), Uri: The Surgical Strike (2019) and Bala (2019), Surilie has chosen the Punjabi film industry and is on her second film. “I am not averse to Bollywood. It is just that I got a good opportunity there. Moreover, the Punjabi industry is in a very good space right now,” she says. However, she’d love to play the quintessential Bollywood heroine. “Please make Barsaat 2 with me! I love ’90s films! I would love to do a romantic film in a chiffon sari with my hair blowing as I run in slow motion and all that jazz!”

This is her first magazine cover with her sister and Surilie  turns out to be the chatterbox between the two! Outfit, Zara

This is her first magazine cover with her sister and Surilie turns out to be the chatterbox between the two! Outfit, Zara
(
Rohan Shrestha
)

The sisters actually started their careers together. “Yami and I came to Mumbai together. I had bagged the lead role in a television series (Meet Mila De Rabba). I was 17 then. She was also working here and there.” But then Yami started signing films down South and Surilie had to return to Chandigarh for college.

“We are the fun factor in each other’s lives; we are our own detox pills!”– Surilie Gautam

“From the small-town life of Chandigarh, moving to a city like Mumbai was a huge shift for me,” says Yami. “The city keeps you busy but also alienates you from people. I don’t think I could have survived in this city without Surilie. Also, when I started working in regional films, there was no entourage, no manager, no one to ask for help. All I had was Surilie on her holidays.”

“We are the fun factor in each other’s lives; we are our own detox pills!” Surilie says. “For an introvert like her, it was difficult make it on her own in an entirely new city. I have huge respect for what she’s achieved.”

The mirror crack’d

While Surilie had always wanted to act, Yami’s ambition was the IAS. But Yami had another side to her personality. “I used to observe people, and then impersonate them. You can say I was a closet brat. A closet dancer. A closet drama queen!” laughs Yami.

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“She’d lock her room and act out scenes in front of the mirror. And I would watch through the keyhole of the door! One day I called mummy and showed her what her elder daughter was up to… But then she caught me prying and from then onwards she would plug the keyhole with a crumpled piece of newspaper!” says Surilie.

“I’m trying not to think ‘Oh, I am all alone.” I am blessed that we are all safe and are having decent meals. This too shall pass.” –Yami Gautam

So how did the shy girl become a Bollywood actress? “When I did my first audition, I was 19. And somehow I felt very liberated in front of the camera. I was so focused that everything else, everyone else just disappeared!” says Yami.

Yeh kuch bhi karti hai, jee jaan laga deti hai,” says Surilie. “Once she did a Haryanvi dance in school… bahut hi loser type, she had a huge bindi and bright red lipstick, but jee jaan laga diya tha usme bhi. So I knew if she decided to do something, she would pull it off.”

Partners in Quarantine: Who’s stuck with who!

  • Salman Khan’s quarantined with a major part of his family. Check him out sharing breakfast (read fodder) with his horse! #ThingsOnlySalmanDoes
  • Ayushmann Khurrana and Tahira Kashyap are at home with their kids. Ayushmann’s poems are as memorable as Tahira’s Lockdown Chronicles.
  • “She’s stealing my pictures, I should be on social media!” the gentleman husband, Saif ali khan, went ungenteel and playfully accused his Intagram-novice wife Kareena Kapoor Khan
  • Amrita Singh, Sarah and Ibrahim Ali Khan’s family videos together reveal more about them than any interview ever has!
  • Ranveer Singh’s Insta stories are a gush fest on his Deepika padukone’s cooking skills. Looks like the actor might himself don the apron soon!
  • Blind Item! Bollywood chatter is about this Bollywood actress “who wanted to head to the Mumbai suburbs one day before lockdown. Her parents are thankful she did not; imagine if she’d have been stuck with her rumoured boyfriend for this extended quarantine. Oooh… the horror!

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From HT Brunch, April 19, 2020

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