Having challenged every stereotype both personally and professionally, Gul Panag is venturing into yet another territory uncharted by any other female actor. Her new role is best described as the ‘creative producer’ of a Punjabi film.
Q: In your debut Punjabi film, Sarsa you’ve also taken on the role of a creative producer, besides acting in it. What does a creative producer do?
Ideally, a producer is different from an investor. Right now, the two terms get merged into a producer, which, honestly speaking, is hugely different from someone who is only sustaining the film with the money. The latter is better known as an investor, while a producer is one who essentially mounts a film to begin with. Now, my role as a creative producer is to ensure that the film’s release gets the scale it deserves. In plain terms it translates as, the film is marketed well by creating the right kind of buzz about it, taking a script to its release, even though I’ve acted in it…much like Aamir (Khan) does
Q: So, you want to be the female Aamir of the industry?
Well, yes…Aamir completely inspires me. He walks in as a total package- first as an intelligent actor who ensures he gives the right content for a hit film, then as a sound marketing guy who knows how to capture his target audiences by talking about the film. After Turning 30 where Prakash Jha gave me and director Alankita Srivastav, who’s his niece, complete independence to promote the film in whatever way we wanted, I realized my intellect, which is way above most people around, can actually help a film beyond just being an actor in it. And yes, the recent debacle for the release of “Fatso”, where I was only an actor, reiterated my belief that I can market a film better.
Q: But why did you launch yourself in this new role with a Punjabi film?
That’s because for four to five years I’ve wanted to do a Punjabi film. And just like every other Punjabi, my expectation from a Punjabi film is high. So, when I did a Punjabi film, I wanted to be very sure that nobody’s expectations are disappointed, least of all mine. Fortunately, I also teamed up with a very like minded director, Jatinder Mauhar, who debuted with Mitti two years back. He’s given me a free hand to creatively build up the film along with my giving me a free reign in deciding the film’s music which is by the band, Agni another first for a Punjabi film.
Q: But Aamir doesn’t do films where he’s not creatively involved in its production, any more. Will that apply that to you as well?
Yes, definitely. See, if I am doing a film, it means I understand it. Unlike others, I don’t do films for the heck of it. And I need to be ideologically connected with the film’s production to do justice to it. I would like to think I’m quite intelligent, but as an actor I was giving only one dimension while the other talent of me was being wasted. An actor’s vision is myopic but being involved in the film creatively is like wearing multiple hats. . After Sarsa I am in talks with Rajat Kapur for multiple films where I play my creativity in production and also with Kalpana Lajmi…Eventually, every film is about politics, like everything else in life. And I’m hugely interested in politics.
Q: Aamir has also been lobbying for the Oscars. That is another side of marketing films…
And why not! India is the largest film producing industry in the world and none of our films get selected in the competitive films category in international film fests? Thank God someone like Anurag Kashyap stood up to talk about the fact that taking a film to Cannes doesn’t mean paying some dollars to get your film screened there and rolling out your own red carpet. It means being invited for competition…and its’ only this year that we have three Indian films in that category competing there. In fact, it’s time to challenge the means of intellectual, independent cinema in India today if we want to break out into the global film industry.
Q: So, what delineates Sarsa from other Punjabi films?
It is a content heavy film which doesn’t need stars to ride on. The script is its hero. It’s a fun film with the right mix of entertainment and social message. I just had to do it, it was so compelling. Besides, this film is important for anyone with a heart for Punjab. It speaks of how student politics is the microcosm for the bigger macrocosm of state politics. It also touches upon drugs, a problem very rampant in the youth of the state. My role is that of an a strong girl from a village, an anarchist who is not anti-establishment, but a progressive rebel. The casting of the film, which is produced by Mehboob Brar and has some very important actors from Punjab, like Victor John, Yad Grewal, Manav Vij and Kartar Cheema who plays a key character.
Q: How do you plan to expand its reach beyond Punjab, considering your role as its creative producer?
A: Yes, very much. We are actively looking at things like tapping social media, multiple theatre releases even outside Punjab, for its release. In fact, we are also looking at making it reachable to people who don’t have access to theatres, like maybe some remote areas of Europe or North America.
Q: Referring to social media, you have been one of the most active actors on social networking sites…
I strongly believe the future has come where one should be able to watch a film on demand online.