Dor and Manaroma Six Feet Under – both belong to the “different” genre, the genre which is slowly changing the face of the Hindi cinema. The kind of cinema that I look forward to. So, as soon as I spotted Gul Panag, the one common factor in these two movies, at the shoot of Hello Darling, I asked for an introduction and was soon enough talking to her about setting up an interview.
I knew about her blog,where she clearly speaks her mind. That and a quick internet search got me even more interested in Gul as a person. She is a well-known personality in automobile journalism. And that’s how she was chosen to test drive Renault’s F1 race car. You can read about her experience on her blog, Gul Space which she is aiming at updating at least once a month.
A few days later, we were chatting on the phone about films, media, adventure sports, and cars. And I found myself talking to an extremely outgoing, supremely confident and a very talkative, Gul Panag.
Journey so far…
Being a person who hadn’t been exposed to too much cinema in her early days, Gul’s entry into the film industry was not deliberate.
…when I was about in class 4 we were in Delhi. It’s just that Delhi is a city where you live, and especially when you are in the army its such a busy life that cinema didn’t even figure in our entertainment agenda. We’d probably go for a meal out or probably for the weekend go out camping to the nearby hills. Cinema as a form of entertainment was missing in my family. Coming back, we were in Laddakh. There were no cinema halls in Laddakh. Then we went back, we were in Wellington. The local cinema halls only showed Tamil films. Of course, every army establishment that we were in had its own cinema hall, but somehow it never was an attraction.
She happened to audition for a theatrical part in a theater exchange program. She was chosen and her work was appreciated, she believed this is something she could do. Immediately after her theatrical stint, she entered the Miss India contest and considers herself extremely lucky to have won it. After which she was offered a role on TV. Here she got a chance to work with a very good director, Suhail Tatari, from whom she learnt all that she knows about screen acting. Not having any educational background in acting, she has been very upfront about asking her director what is expected of her and how she should go about it.
I had such phenomenal response from the industry, it’s incredible. At this point I was still drifting. I wasn’t actually initiating anything from my end. Wherever the wind was taking me, I was like the flower that is flying around, going wherever it is taken.
This lasted about 3 years. The first film offer after Kashmir is when I decided the kinds of film that I wanted to do. Dhoop came along, but my resolve wasn’t strong because, I also did Jurm. Was an important moment of my life, I realized what I didn’t want to do.
I enjoyed the trappings and trimmings of working in a film like Jurm. Shot for a month in Malaysia, flew first class, had a Mercedes at our disposal, and stayed in a seven star hotel. It was great but at a creative level it wasn’t. Of course at that time I didn’t think so.
Much later, when I was hunting for work, I made a wish list of people I wanted to work with.
And in that list I would keep crossing out names, and eventually I came up with a list of directors. And the top on the list were Nagesh Kukunoor, Rakeysh Mehra, and a lot of other interesting filmmakers. And I’d be foolish if I didn’t have Aditya Chopra and Karan Johar on my wish list as well. If I have to do commercial cinema, it’s only worth doing it with the best.
Yays and nays while choosing scripts…
She has a simple formula to choose her scripts,
…the idea is to be apart from everybody else, definitely to stand out in the race…to stand out from the crowd and not do anything which would make me look like anybody else…and that would mean that I don’t do a part unless and until I felt it is absolutely critical to plot of the film…
… When I look at a film, I see that if this character’s part is taken out what happens to the film? If the film looks like it is incomplete well, then that’s a reason for me to do the film. But, if I take out the part and yet if the film is still complete, the film still continues well, then it’s a part that I should definitely avoid…
…You’ve got to want to do a different look not because you want to show the world that you can look like this also….An actor should attempt different looks only if the character demands it. And I want to do only such characters because otherwise I’ll look the same all the time…
And we surely have seen her walk the walk. It doesn’t matter to her that she’s played married women and not done girly, giggly kinds of roles, because it all depends on how she is styled and put together. And contrary to my beliefs, she doesn’t think there is a dearth of movies like that for women in the industry now. She is very grateful to people like Kareena Kapoor and Preity Zinta for taking up roles that open up mainstream audiences’ eyes to intelligent cinema, because that gets bigger films for someone like her. Yet, she sees herself as a pioneer in dong such films, especially coming from the glamorous world and is proud of herself because in a way Preity is following her footsteps.
Gul believes she gives 100% of herself to her job. She spends a lot of time analyzing her role and constantly indulges in self management, which is why she doesn’t have time for people who think she hasn’t done a good job. If someone points out a flaw, like any human being, she doesn’t like it at first but takes a look at it, and if she feels it is justified, she works on doing something about it.