‘Delhi Crime’ actor Yashaswini Dayama on why Bollywood is no longer the endgame

If you’ve been binge-watching recently-released Indian streaming shows like Amazon Prime’s Made in Heaven and Netflix’s Delhi Crime, you are likely to recognise Yashaswini Dayama.

She plays a schoolgirl in both series, and while hers are not meaty roles, they’re not insignificant. Importantly, they’ve given the young actor the chance to be seen by millions, and to work with the likes of directors Zoya Akhtar and Richie Mehta.

Dayama is no newcomer. You might remember her as Radhika Apte’s eccentric neighbour from the 2016 Bollywood thriller, Phobia, or as Alia Bhatt’s irreverent friend from Dear Zindagi (also 2016). But it’s really thanks to over-the-top (OTT) platforms that her work has become more prolific. In addition to acting in the two shows, she also plays the lead in Dice Media’s web series, Adulting, and headlines a YouTube sketch series about an awkward young adult, called Closet Comic.

“The world of entertainment has changed a lot,” the actor concedes. “The endgame is not Bollywood anymore. In fact, there is no endgame. It’s ultimately the story and how accessible it is.”

Playing young

Dayama’s next project sees her playing the lead (also a schoolgirl) in Megha Ramaswamy’s coming-of-age series, The Odds, which will premiere next month at the International Film Festival of Los Angeles. The 24-year-old actor admits that she is often approached to play characters much younger than she is. “Once someone called me for an ad without seeing my picture. It was for the role of a mother, and they were shocked when I walked in,” she recalls.

Does she worry that this could lead to typecasting? “I was initially concerned about it, but now I’m comfortable doing what works,” she says.

The actor, pictured here in ‘Delhi Crime’, is quite used to the fact that most of the roles she is called for are for characters much younger than she is

The actor, pictured here in ‘Delhi Crime’, is quite used to the fact that most of the roles she is called for are for characters much younger than she is   | Photo Credit: Netflix

The accidental actor

Interestingly, the daughter of veteran actor Ramakant Dayama never considered acting as a career. “I was awkward and shy, and it would take me hours to warm up to a new situation. I hated being in the spotlight.”

In fact, academia had seemed like a more plausible career track, given that her mother and grandfather had both taught at St Xavier’s College, where she completed her undergraduate studies (“in fact, my aunt was my political science professor”). So, she enrolled for a Master’s in political science soon after graduating.

“I went for two classes before dropping out,” she admits. By this time, a more outgoing personality (thanks to college) and a haircut (“it gave me a new look”) gave her the courage to audition for advertisements and small roles. Within days of enrolling in her Master’s programme, she learned that she’d bagged a role in Phobia. “I got a lecture from my teachers about leaving education for a career in acting, but at that point, I thought acting would only be short-lived, and that everybody would realise that I was a fraud,” she jokes.

Here to stay

But by March last year (after she had secured roles in The Odds, Made in Heaven and Adulting), Dayama realised that acting could actually be a viable career. She points to her peer, Mithila Palkar, whose lead role in Bollywood (Karwaan) came after (and because of) digital projects like the Little Things web series and a Marathi rendition of the ‘cup song’ from Pitch Perfect. To Dayama, it felt like streaming had made the acting game more inclusive.

Ready for more

Up next for the actor are season two of Adulting, and the debut of The Odds, slated for a digital release later this year. The latter is a whimsical series about two classmates on an adventure through Mumbai. “I spent my entire childhood in the suburbs, and The Odds gave me the lovely opportunity to see how other people have grown up in the city. Shooting in places that Megha (the director) used to go to as a child helped me understand that you can have a natural childhood in the city,” she concludes.

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Printable version | May 7, 2021 5:26:24 AM |

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