Gul Panag reveals she once convinced a bus full of people she was an IPS officer: ‘I was a practical joker’

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Gul Panag plays a woman with a penchant for dark practical jokes and telling tall tales in her latest project Manoranjan. The actor shares she herself had ‘mastered the art’ of playing practical jokes growing up.

Gul Panag is currently playing lead role in a short film Manoranjan. The 24-minute short sees Gul play Lalita, a housewife with a penchant for telling tall tales and practical jokes. While she hasn’t directed or written the film, the idea for the story was hers. Speaking to us in a chat about the film, Gul talks about how she thought of the film and why her own past as a practical joker helped her play the role.

Gul says that the basic idea of the film came from one simple sentiment: What happens when your best laid plans are interrupted. She explains, “How does one deal with change? That was the starting point. I have always been influenced by the writings of HH Munro (popularly known as Saki), particularly Vera (a popular short story of his).”

Gul brought on writer Sukhmani Sidana to flesh out the idea into a screenplay and Suhail Tatari to direct it. But in order to play the character, she dug deep into her own ‘expertise’ in practical jokes. She says, “I would tell tall all kinds of stories when I would take the bus from Chandigarh to Delhi in college, or when I would take the bus from Patiala to Chandigarh regularly.”

Gul Panag on the sets of Manoranjan, her latest short film.
Gul recounts this one incident when she was a student and managed to convince a bus-full of people that she was an under-training officer in the Indian Police Services (IPS). She tells us, “My father was in the Armed Forces so I had a dependent card, which is an official card with the national emblem. I was looking for something in my wallet once on a bus trip from Delhi to Punjab, where my father was posted. And I took my card out and the guy next to me looked at it and asked me, “Madam, are you IPS?” And then I spent the whole journey talking about how I was training to be an IPS officer and how I will join duty soon. The passengers got me juice and chai. At every stop, they were taking care of me.”

The actor admits that her practical jokes became fewer after she became Miss India at the age of 20 and gained fame. But she still found opportunities. Gul recounts how she once convinced a filmmaker that she could not speak English and needed to take a course for it. “The person who had introduced us knew I was joking and he could barely keep from laughing but I kept at it. Eventually when they found out that I was a Miss India and could speak English well, they were both amused and annoyed. Another time, when I was new to Mumbai, I convinced a music company executive that I was an aspiring musician and I even chased them for work for weeks. But it was always harmless fun. I always made sure nobody got hurt,” she says.

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