Gul Panag recently starred in her first Telugu movie called The Ghost starring Nagarjuna. Looking back on memories with the South superstar, Gul said, “Nag sir is breathtakingly charming. He has an amazing amount of charisma and a vibe that says ‘there’s no one cooler than him’.”
Gul is one of many Bollywood performers who have made their South American debuts this year despite the linguistic barrier. Before the filming began, the actor spent two months working with a language tutor. Gul was originally anxious throughout the filming for a few days, but things eventually settled down.
She shared her memories from the sets, “This was my first Telugu film. I was nervous. Because it’s a language I don’t speak or understand. So, I was really scared but Nagarjuna just came and told me ‘don’t worry people just come and mumble lines and be done. You are making the effort to learn your lines and speak with full honesty, so just chill, it will be okay’. I think that helped.”
Gul’s debut occurs in the midst of the ongoing discussion about Hindi-language pan-Indian films from the South sector. She weighed in, “I don’t know if taking over is the right word here, but I feel when a story is set in a particular part of a country or world, it should be in that language because it also has a subculture of that place. We try to set films in Hindi regardless of the place, whether it is set in Punjab or Rajasthan. It should be subtitled. I think once films like these are dubbed, it becomes cool.”
“Look at Parasite, it became the first non-English film to become the Best Picture at the Oscars. The best picture is the best picture that the jury has found, what does language have to do with it? Films should be made in the language which is most natural to where the story is set. Why wasn’t Veer Zaara made in Punjabi if I ask? Punjabi is easily understood by most people. But, it’s in Hindi. At least the portion could have been in Punjabi where they (Shah Rukh Khan and Preity Zinta) were in the village. Of course, when Shah Rukh is in a work environment, I can imagine why he is speaking Hindi.”
Gul is adamant that for a movie to succeed with viewers, it must first be good in and of itself. “Language is a secondary part of filmmaking. The primary part is to be authentic to the story. If a film is set in Hyderabad then the most normal thing would be for the film to be in Telugu. But, why not have more audience to watch it, so it gets dubbed in Hindi or English. I understand.”
Speaking of the language controversy, Chhello Show (Last Film Show) was India’s submission for the Best International Feature Film category for the 95th Academy Awards, which angered many people on Twitter. The Kashmir Files and RRR, which dominated the domestic box office, were left in its wake. She responded by asking a question about it. “Yeah, what is the problem with it? It’s a Gujarati film. Why should it be Hindi? Hindi is one of the languages spoken in India.”
“Who are these people? It doesn’t matter. Does that mean Hindi represents all of India? Is that what they are trying to say? Does everybody only speak Hindi? We have 22 official languages. So, what makes Hindi special is the question I ask. Hindi is spoken by a large part of the country across multiple states but I see language in cinema as most natural to the particular place of the story.” She also feels that often people typecast actors owing to their regions and languages.