Yashaswini Dayama: ‘My character in What Are The Odds is everything that I wasn’t when I was 15’
Although born to an actor, Ramakant Dayma, Yashaswini Dayama had no plans to be an actor. If anything, the thought never crossed her mind until after graduation when she stumbled upon an advertisement audition. Since then, there has been no looking back. In her almost five-year-old career, Yashaswini has been a part of acclaimed pieces of work like Dear Zindagi, Phobia, Made in Heaven and Delhi Crime. Alongside she became a familiar face for many who spend time on social media and YouTube, courtesy a series of viral videos on Filtercopy and ScoopWhoop and a web-show on Dice Media, Adulting.
Last month, Dayama’s first film in a lead role, writer-director Megha Ramaswamy’s What Are The Odds, which premiered at the closing night gala for the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles in 2019, released on Netflix. The film, a whimsical teen drama, has received mixed reviews from the critics and the audience but what does it mean for the 26-year-old actor, we find out in a chat. Excerpts from the conversation:
Q: What made you come on board for What Are The Odds?
The fact that it was so offbeat and unconventional. It wasn’t a very cliched boy-meets-girl story. Although the boy does meet a girl here as well, it happens in such a fun and different manner that it appealed to me the moment I read it. In a way, this film caters to my childhood. It is something that I would have wanted to watch when I was a kid, or even now.
Q: What did you like the most about your character, Vivek?
Vivek is everything that I wasn’t when I was 15. She knows what she wants, she understands the world even if that understanding is a bit naive and she is brave and bold enough to do what she wants to do. I wish I had been a little more adventurous in my growing up years but the fact that I could live all of that through Vivek drew me the most towards this character.
Q: How has the initial response that has come your way been?
A lot of kids on our social media are bombarding us with covers and artwork and it is a really nice feeling when you get so much love for something that is very close to you.
Q: But, it has also received mixed reviews from a section of the media and the audience. How do you react to them?
Ever since we first released the film, I have tried to be very unbiased. So, when I saw it for the first time, I did see issues with the film (not the same ones that the critics saw) but with time and several edits, it became what you see on Netflix and when I watch that, I don’t see any issues. Everything that you see are the choices that I am on board with… maybe because it’s my project. When I read the first ‘not nice’ review, I was bothered because I couldn’t wrap my head around it and honestly, some of them are quite mean but the crew is such a tight family and is so protective about each other that it helped me understand it better. And, as cliche as it may sound, everyone has a right to have an opinion and we knew from the beginning that this is not going to be a film that will be loved by cent per cent people and that’s okay. As Paloma (played by Priyanka Bose) says in the film - it’s art, sometimes people won’t get it.
Q: If we look at your body of work, your character in Made in Heaven, Delhi Crime and What Are The Odds are that of a schoolgirl. Do you fear to be stereotyped?
Except for superstars, most people have no control over the work that they are doing in our film industry. Most actors just want to be a part of a good story and the kind of work that comes in our way is not in our hands. It’s not that I sought out the roles of a school-going girl. In fact, I was cast for all these three projects within three months and way back in 2017 and at that point, I didn’t have the foresight to think anything. At the same time, I cannot imagine not having done any of these projects because I'm so proud of them, I got to work with some amazing people. And, so what if I am playing a sixteen-year-old in all of them? If I am doing it badly, we can start a conversation but if it is working out fine, I don’t see any issue.
There are days when I do fear getting typecast but at the same time, I think, it is all in the interpretation. If you are secure in the choices you are making then, in your head, you know you won’t be typecast. Also, you can’t let these thoughts bog you down.
Q: Now that you have already done two seasons of Adulting and a film in the lead role, do you think things would change for you now in the mainstream cinema?
I hope so! But, I still get a lot of calls for auditions where I have to play the friend or the sister and while they are not sidekicks, they are not important as well. So, casting is still not expanding as much as I wished I had and, sometimes, it terrifies me because I feel like I am constantly saying no to projects and what if people forget me? All this while I had never thought that people would ask me about my choices, I never considered myself important enough. But, I hope that in the future, when people ask me about my choices, I can say that I made the right ones.
Q: And, what is it that you look for in a role?
One of the first filters is whether I am of any importance to the film or if I am helping the story in any way. Then I think about the character’s vibe and whether it is something that I have done before and would I enjoy playing this part or not.
Q: In one of the interviews, you mention that acting was never the plan...
Yes. As a child, I didn’t know what I was good at. I only knew that I was decent enough at music. As I grew up, I didn’t have a plan and it is precisely why when I initially got the roles of a schoolgirl, it didn’t bother me since acting was never on my mind because I didn’t see myself in a sari and breaking into a song and dance like heroines would do, my body just didn’t move that way. Thankfully, there is a better representation of women, hopefully of which I have become a part of and that’s why I see everything that came to me as a bonus.
Q: What is the plan now?
Acting. I have put hours and efforts behind this craft so I am going to take it forward. I have aspirations and goals and they might not sound very realistic but I want to do a musical like La La Land or anything where I would get to sing, dance and act. I also aspire to be a cool and badass action heroine. People are talking about a remake of Avatar: The Last Airbender. If I could do that, it would be awesome (laughs).
Q: Lastly, what’s next? We heard about the second season of Made In Heaven, is that in the pipeline?
Honestly, I don’t know what’s next. About Made In Heaven, there were talks but I haven’t heard from any of them. Everything was supposed to start April onwards but then COVID-19 happened so let’s see what happens.
If not an actor you would be: A rockstar
An actor you look forward to working with: Ranveer Singh
Your dream director: Imtiaz Ali
Favourite city: New York
Favourite street food: Vada Pav
A subject you hated the most: Maths
Your favourite work: What Are The Odds, it's very special