Gul Panag on her short film ‘Manoranjan’: I am a practical joker myself

Home / News and Media / Gul Panag on her short film ‘Manoranjan’: I am a practical joker myself

In a conversation, the actor opens up about her latest project, her learnings and politics

“How do people react when things don’t go according to plan?” This was the question that struck Gul Panag in the middle of May 2020, and one that germed the seed of her short film Manoranjan (Entertainment ).

During the pandemic, Gul found herself wondering what would happen to those women, who prioritised everything and everybody above themselves, when things do not pan out for them.

The idea for her latest short film, which is streaming now on the Royal Stag Barrel Select Large short films platform, started with lead character Lalita, the “quintessential homemaker”.

Directed by Suhail Tatari and staring Gul, Satyajit Sharma, Mihir Ahuja, and Akshita Arora, Manoranjan follows the story of this homemaker.

The main protagonist, played by Gul herself, is dealing with a delusional disorder (something that the film doesn’t spell out) and the story follows her unseemingly dark side when an unwanted guest arrives home.

In a Zoom interview with The Hindu , she said, “I reached out to my friend Suhail (Tatari) who has collaborated with me for an earlier short film on the same platform, about creating a narrative around this woman who is forced to deal with something that she doesn’t want to.”

She also reached out to Sukhmani Sadana, actor and writer, well-known for writing the screenplays of 1920 London and Creature, who was immediately hooked to the idea.

“Sukhmini is a writer who specialises in the spooky genre; the screenplay and dialogue that she wrote based on the structure that I had seen, was exactly how I wanted it to come out,” says Gul.

Being a practical joker

Between Gul and the writer-director, multiple rounds of discussion happened regarding the approach for the film and the lead character, who is a practical joker weaving stories to pass the time. Not very much unlike Gul herself!

Greatly influenced by the character of Vera in H.H. Munro’s short story called The Open Window that she had read back in college, the actor says, “That’s where my jokes really originated.”

Gul says, “Practical jokers don’t mean harm, they are just doing it to entertain themselves. For Suhail, it was very important for Lalita to be likeable, which I now understand. So we debated on why would you be sympathetic towards her.”

To get the representation of delusional disorder right, Gul had long conversations with psychologist Shrradha Sidhwani about people going through the same.

Sensitivity, she says, comes from empathising with what Lalita is going through.

“Lalita is deeply shaken by what has happened in her life but she has found a way to move on and not lose her own shadow. She is still vibrant on the surface. Everybody needs a coping mechanism.”

Gul’s personal growth, both as an actor and as a person has also come a long way. All the “raw data”, she says, is available in the hard disc of her head somewhere, and now she has to just pull it out and contextualise it.

“The way that I have portrayed Lalita today as a 43-year-old actor, and how I would have approached her at 20 is vastly different. At 20, I would have thought about how Gul would react in this situation. But now it is about the character,” she quips.

‘Your politics is who you are’

Gul is amongst the few actors today who wears her political opinions on her sleeves. From her Twitter feed to the farmer’s protest site, she has always been vocal about her views and believes that an individual’s politics is who they are.

“When I was growing up, politics wasn’t considered to be a cool thing. Political awareness came to me in my 30s, but today’s younger generation is so political even in their 20s because of the political environment,” she says, adding that she wouldn’t be a part of a film today that puts out propaganda.

People from the arts, Gul says, have always been vested in politics, and every government will always try to use artists for their benefit. “But, it is important for you to know what you stand for. Do you stand for an India that is for everyone, one that believes in non-discrimination? If you don’t stand for that India, then I’m sorry; I can’t stand with you.”

Within the industry, she also finds that this conversation has increased on both sides of the spectrum. “The film industry wasn’t political up until 2009; then social media heralded a new kind of politics. Even blissful people living in their ivory towers are now finally getting bothered by a few things,” Gul concludes.

Use of this website ( including any and all parts, features, materials and downloads ) constitutes your acceptance of these Privacy and Legals. The materials on this website are not to be sold, traded, or given away. Any copying, manipulation, publishing, or other transfer of these materials, except as specifically provided in the Terms and Conditions of Use ( Privacy and Legals ), is strictly prohibited.