The actress seems quite excited about her upcoming film Fatso, due to release this Friday. Directed by Rajat Kapoor, the film also stars Ranvir Shorey and Purab Kohli.
In a candid chat with Sonil Dedhia, Gul Panag discusses her married life, her plans to start a family, and of course, her movies.
Tell us about your film Fatso.
It’s a fun film about five friends, one of whom is fat and loved by all. It is also the story of three boys trying to woo this girl, the object of their desire.
My character, Nandini, is very different from other roles I have played. You might have seen me playing a headstrong woman. In Fatso, I just exist. She is unaware of how good-looking she is. The film looks at attraction and love that goes beyond good looks.
You are working with Ranvir Shorey for the first time…
Yes, I had met him through a common friend and our thoughts matched a lot. He follows current affairs, something that I am very interested in.
Fatso is about a fat guy. Have you in real life ever loved a fat guy?
Yes, my first proper boyfriend was almost 20 kilos overweight. My father was posted in Africa for three years. I met this guy and I knew he liked me. I was also drawn to his personality.
We were together for some time but then he dumped me. Imagine someone dumping me! (Laughs). I was heartbroken for a year and couldn’t do anything during that time.
You got married last year to your boyfriend Rishi Attari. When did you realise you were in love with him?
I was 15 when I first saw Rishi at my boarding school, Lawrence School, Lovedale, in Ooty. He is five years older than me and had already passed out and had come for Founder’s Day.
I was hanging around with my friends when he walked past me. I said to myself, ‘This is the kind of guy I want to marry.’ In fact, every girl in the school had a crush on him (Smiles).
But then you went to Africa…
Yes, I came back from Africa and met Rishi again. I was just a student and he was already a pilot. I was disappointed because I thought he was out of my reach. Along the way he dated some girls and I dated some guys. I finished my studies and started working.
I was financially independent and that’s when I spoke to Rishi. He was a little reluctant because he wanted to stay away from the media. We sorted out all these issues and got our priorities right and started dating almost nine years ago.
When did you both decide to take the plunge?
We didn’t have a reason to get married but when we went to (actress) Shruti Seth’s and (Break Ke Baad director) Danish Aslam’s wedding in Goa, we decided to get married.
I just saw them as a couple and the whole feeling of being married sounded really exciting. They inspired our marriage. Just like them we also had a very low key and private wedding.
Are there any do’s and don’ts that you have set for yourselves?
Rishi has been my pillar of strength for 15 years now. He encouraged me to get into Bollywood. At one point, I wanted to leave and join a business school, but he persuaded me to stay back.
We have respect for each other and our work. We know what we want to do in life. I give him his space and he gives me mine, yet he is always there for me when I can’t deal with certain situations in my life.
How do you find time for each other with your erratic schedules?
We know what his schedule is going to be a month in advance. I know the days when he is going to be free. I try and plan my schedules and finish my work when he is busy. Sometimes when he is suddenly in town or I am free we just try and make up for lost time.
What’s married life like?
We’ve been dating for nine years so I don’t feel any difference. Yes, now I know that he is my husband and not my boyfriend, which is a little uncool (Laughs).
Also, I benefit from spouse benefits and since he is a pilot, I get to fly first class for free!
Is it true that men change after marriage?
I don’t know. We have just completed one year of marriage so it’s a little difficult to answer. I guess I can see around five to 10 percent of positive change.
We have very different interests. I am a huge current affairs junkie. I need to know what is happening around me. He is not interested in these things but at the same time he asks me a lot of things which I can enlighten him on and vice versa. We have varied interests which help both of us.
What is the secret of a successful marriage?
The secret of a successful marriage is the meeting of two minds. Physical intimacy is a necessity in a relationship but if the minds don’t meet, the relationship is in a tough situation.
People who marry for physical passion face the music at some point of time because the physicality is going to fizzle out sooner or later.
Do you consult Rishi before signing a film?
Even before we married, I used to consult him. In fact there was a script that I was not very keen on but he pushed me to do it. He may not understand the film business but he understands life. Rishi’s inputs have always been valuable.
Any plans to start a family soon?
I was telling Rishi that we should talk and think about it but even before we could do that suddenly this year is looking very hectic. I am held up till March next year.
Starting a family is a very responsible decision. One should also keep in mind the biological clock which keeps ticking all the time. I think people should write an exam before they bring a kid into the world.
You are playing a crime reporter in the sequel to Ab Tak Chappan. Is your character based on Jigna Vora (the crime reporter arrested for her alleged involvement in the murder of journalist Jay Dey)?
No. My character doesn’t do anything that lands her in jail. My character is a crime reporter who is writing a book on police encounters. If at all I can draw any parallel it will be to Jay Dey. I am the only female character in the film.
Is it true that you are planning to turn producer?
Yes, I am really excited about it. I have been in talks with Rajat Kapoor to direct my maiden venture. Hopefully, we should make an announcement really soon.