Femina: Less like you more like me

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“This was carried in the Femina January 13, Happy New You issue
Section: Your space: looking back
Title : Less like you, more like me
Intro: Gul Panag picked her own definition of ‘arriving’ in the industry. She voices her views on establishing her own labels all her life”
I was five years old. It was ‘home clothes day’ at school, a Saturday. Between my grandmother and me, we had forgotten that, and I ended up reaching school as the only student in uniform. I refused to go in, bawling and wailing. My father, who had come to drop me, asked: “What sense does it make to blend in and be like everyone else?’ He said, “It’s better to be different and stand out.” I think that was the beginning of my belief in living life on my own terms.
It’s not as though I made a conscious decision or effort to be different. I think it was just the way I was brought up.
I was taught to think and act independently and to celebrate my individuality.

Many years later, when I decided to enter the Femina Miss India pageant in my quest to challenge myself, my father insisted I get ‘professional’ photos taken. My brief to photographer Prakash Shroff was to take photos that would stand out. The prevailing trend those days was to wear contact lenses and pout (yup, it hasn’t changed
all that much)!

The stark picture (my photographic debut) that was published in Femina while introducing the contestants of Femina Miss India 1999, turned out to be very different from the rest, and it set the tone of my unconventional perception. Winning, I think, was a case of being first among equals, but I largely attribute my victory to my refreshingly ‘different’ mark.

I always knew my strength lay in my communication skills (honed by winning countless public speaking competitions), and I made a start with television. Everyone advised me against this, saying that the expected thing to do is to sign films. I wasn’t convinced as I was not yet sure if that’s what I wanted to take up.
I thoroughly enjoyed my stint on TV, and when the time came to graduate to films, I chose to make my debut with Dhoop. Yet another unconventional start. I was warned that a film like this, which was not run-of-the-mill, would prove fatal for my career. I clearly disagreed. I firmly believed our film industry, at the time,
was on the threshold of change. Now, I could either be part of that change, maybe even pioneer it, or be left behind. Dor, Manorama Six Feet Under, Summer 2007, Hello and Straight are all unique films where I’ve played different characters. My choices, both in work and in life, have helped me create a space for my self.

I’ve learnt a lot over the last decade. I’ve learnt that success is relative and what’s important is to give your very best shot
to what you choose to do. I’ve learnt to speak my mind. I’ve learnt to stand up for what is right, even if it’s unpopular. Especially if it’s unpopular. But the most important thing I’ve learnt, is you should do things your own way, to respect yourself enough to dare to be who you are: because success is only success if achieved on your terms. Every time.

As Coco Chanel said, “In order to be irreplaceable, you must always be different.”

29 Comments on “Femina: Less like you more like me”

  1. romeobagga

    hi gul how are you

  2. anand rathore

    am proud of you GUL…

  3. venkat verma

    nice thought but i believe 1 doesn’t need to stand out intentionally.. If u r different (n i believe every1 is.. in their own way), u will get a unique identity. 1 gets an identity of “normal man/woman” only when he/she tries to follow significant people in a group in a quest to look as significant. If u be what u are… others will definitely recognize it ! Thats how god made us…

  4. Hitesh

    always admired the movies you picked……though didn’t like Straight that much…….but appreciated all others…..the trend of movies, i observed, you were doing…….always made me thing…..”It’s a Gul Panag movie, it has to be different”….there are not lot of actors(male and female) that can boast about it……..but you do stand out…… ,,,/

    whatever i can recall about you…..i always find it different from what your contemporaries did………

    and that reminds of an Interview of Makrand Deshpande at a premier party…..where he was dressed like usually he does……though i think many found it weird…….but yea…that was him…..he is like that…..and very much proud of it……

    great post to inspire people to be proud of themselves………being different is good……


  5. Surya Kannan

    Great journey so far, on the marathon tracks and movies.Each one of us were made to be different to celebrate our Self. I’m happy, that you are living to your true potential! We are looking forward for new milestones with a newer you every new day. Best wishes 🙂

  6. Talha Masood

    I agree, being different is a virtue that many seem to ignore in the race of blending in… nice one… though i dint read the magazine but i am thinking twitter and internet : ) also ur performance however short in RANN was impressive… *thumbs up*


    My opinion about you took a different turn once I started following you on twitter. Prompt tweets about defense force affairs, Padma awards, & your presence of mind to remind us about price rise issue getting relegated to back pages when SRK Vs Sena issue was peaking, …. all these presented to us what Gul Panag as a human being stands for. I had a different take on SRK Vs Sena issue as I felt we should take up the cases of the Taxi Drivers beaten up by Sainiks or the Job aspirants of the North who had come for railway & other exams and were at the mercy of Sainiks rather than a Superstar. I always believed & still believe that Majority of the Cine Stars are only performers but not good role models for humanity. Very few have threaded the different path and you are one among them and I totally concur about you taking different stand as expressed by you in your article.
    Its always natural to wish heights of success to persons one admires & I was no different & was wishing that you reach the top slot in the film industry. In last few days even that (my wish) has turned too, looking at the persons who have achieved top positions in the industry and the way they dilute their stance leaving the supporters nowhere. My Inner voice says persons reaching the top compromise with principles to achieve more materialistic success. I wish you prove me wrong by reaching the heights & yet remaining as human as you are now .

  8. Akshay Grg

    Well i agree with u in the sense tht peopl shld nt follw a set path rathr try thngs tht givs thm satisfaction.anyways i lkd ur role in Manorama Six Feet Under and ur acting was suprb.looking forward to many such roles.ALL THE BEST!!!!!!!!

  9. Devdatta B

    Great… You are truly admirable and inspiring ! I always admitted this by seeing your movies , but now getting to know your journey of life and the imbibed philosophy under that, I am TRULY IMPRESSED AND INSPIRED.. May you go a long long way ( YOUR WAY ! ) and May God bless you !

  10. RajaniPriya A

    Ms Gul Panag,

    At first place a big congratulations to your parents for instilling such a thought process for you which made you be this wonderful person today!! You have been doing excellent work in films…..carrying on your zeal to other arenas too….inspiring many to follow your suit…..Keep being this warm & unique person now and always..

    Good Luck with everything,

  11. Pritha

    Your films are different and indeed being a part of the new age hindi cinema has been a right decision.
    It is important that actors today act in intelligent / thought – provoking films. I liked the bit on being successful on your own terms, being satisfied and at peace with yourself is the true definition of success.

  12. francis

    Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak,Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.

    Great Gul, All the best for your rest of your career.

    your loving Fan – Francis

  13. Dr.Navdeep Bains

    SSA Gul,
    Your views about your identity are absolutely right, however a common phrase in our society is “KHAEEYE MAN BHOWNDA, PAEEYE (WEAR) JAG BHOWNDA (LIKING).”it means that you have to work according to the needs of today (which public like) irrespective of your feelings or values of life,,,,If you want to become a public figure….! but whenever you decided then no matters that you did it for public or for yourself ( for your personal satisfaction). But as I usually quote our Gurus words ” They had already given us a unique and absolute identity about 425 years ago in our not only appearance but in our culture also”( KHALSA MERO ROOP HAI KHAS, KHALSE MEIN HOON KAROON NIWAS) but now a days we have forgotten those our religious commitments.
    But Gul I feel that we generally express out our seed born characters any time and any way. But for our professional satisfaction you should carry on what you think right and feel good..!

    With regards and blessings,
    Dr.Navdeep S.Bains (Bikaner)

  14. Nimal

    Even I agree that we should be different, but that should not be different from who we are, but it should be different from others. Naturally we are different from each other, and unless we try not to fake others we can easily be different.

    There is this famous notion of running with the current, but this will not let us standout from the rest. The best way of living the life is to as who we are…!

    Well said… “In order to be irreplaceable, you must always be different.”

  15. Ketaki Pathak

    Yup you are right. I so loved you in Dor and Manorama… 🙂

  16. harsha

    heyy hiiiiiiii…i hve seen all ur movies….vry different..not the typical types…hve heard a lot abt u …u seem to be a vry down to earth woman….:P…all the best 4 ur future…hve a gr8 life…:)

  17. drkalpin

    It’s good to be different, but it makes sense once you have made a mark ..
    The society we live in, is by design such that it discourages difference (and by extension of that, courage).
    For a person who is gifted (by birth) with looks/intelligence/art/wealth etc, being different and following her/his own path is still an option..there are lot many people who donot know (or not allowed to know) that there can be something diferent..

  18. midhun

    People, especially elders, always say that – “Do this, don’t do that.” as if they know everything just because they were born earlier. Not that they mean anything bad or are ignorant, but they somehow expect one to follow the herd. Pity them, who fail to realise that treading the path less taken is more fun!

    “Dhoop” is one of my all-time favourite Indian movies. Be different, always. Be you.


  19. Rajguru

    Nice to know all about u. May grow more.

  20. Brijesh Singh

    hello mam, I am great fan of urs . u r really beautiful.
    Man i want one suggestion that i want my career in film industry . so could u please sugget me what should i do . my email Id is brijeshsingh005@gmail.com

    I am waiting for ur suggestion

  21. Reva

    Nice to know all about u. May grow more.

  22. karan

    I fully agree with your views and appreciate them. Well must mention that your USP is that you are unconvential and makes you stand out whether you are acting or living as a common human being. Anyways i have always considered you an equivalent of Abhay Deol as an actress,

  23. Mohit Mishra

    You are too good in door.All the best for your rest of your career.

  24. vijander singh thakur

    I appreciate you talent hardword and dedication. Dosent matters you are not top star of present but I am sure about this one day you will hold all viewers for complete 3 hours or may be more to their seats watching you.
    All I mean is the day is not far when you will give a movie friven by only you and it will definately get awarded.
    Cheers! to the coming celebrations in your upcoming life.

  25. Anupam

    Yes ! Its always essential to mould ur own identity, irrespective of what others are doing. Nice post Gul !

  26. Zena

    y dont u try a movie with Abhey Deol.
    He has made his mark wit unconventional movies…
    Anyway, I think u r Lovely.
    I liked u since u were chosen in femina Miss India.
    U r looking gud on the cover of goodhousekeepin magazine..i just grabbed a copy for the first tym, seeing u
    on d front cover.
    All the best!!!!

  27. Devansh

    guuuuuuuuuullllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll you r d best:)

  28. Claytonia Vices

    And not being part of the rat race is so much fun! 🙂

  29. Gul Panag

    Thanks Shivaram:-) Touched by your words.
    Thanks Talha.

    Hi Zena,
    I did an Award winning film with Abhay- Manorama Six Feet Under:-)
    And congrats on your very first copy of Good House Keeping

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