Gul Panag’s Bike Riding
Gul Panag: I think it’s great to be back. I like the belief that Maxim is more than just a magazine about sexuality and sensuality, really, and that there’s lots of interesting stuff out there that attracts different kinds of men. Yes, I think it’s great to be back in a magazine like this.
M: Oh, fantastic! So tell me, since you’ve last been here you’ve expanded your percentage of activities. You’re not just an actress anymore, you’ve been a beauty queen, you’re an activist and now you’re a biker! You’re smoking hot, has being smokin’ hot made this transition easier or has it made it harder?
GP: Well, I don’t know about the smokin’ hot part at all, but I’m not a biker in terms of the fact that it’s not a new addition in my life. I’ve been riding bikes ever since I can remember. You know there are things that catch people’s imagination but it doesn’t mean those things began when they caught people’s imagination. I’ve been riding bikes since I was 17 and of course, officially, 18. So I enjoy riding bikes, it gives me a sense of freedom and a sense of liberation. It’s a good thing, and you know at the end of the day, one of the bikes that I ride is an Enfield, it’s considered to be a very ‘Man’ territory and so is the S650 BMW that we ride, but somehow when people hear about the Enfield, there’s more of a reaction; not many people know what an S650 looks like, it’s not really a bike that most people would relate to but if you mention an Enfield, this bizarre expression comes on their faces. So, I enjoy the bike, I’ve done some trips to different parts of the country on it, I enjoy it. So I don’t understand the relationship with the hotness part of it, really.
M: Well, if you saw the pictures, you would, as I’m sure every man in India will do. But, going forward, to every man, the bike represents a very independent kind of notion. You get married and your wife tells you “Sell the bike and buy a car”.
GP: Yes, happens to a lot of my friends. Including the bike I learnt to ride on! It was my cousin’s bike, he’s in the Army and he got married then. It’s an interesting story behind how I learnt to ride the bike. The first bike I ever sat on in terms of learning how to ride the bike was an Enfield 500, if I’m not mistaken. My dad was posted in Patiala, I used to go to college there at the time and my cousin was also posted nearby and I used to tell him that I want to learn and he’d say, “I refuse to teach you”. I said, “Well, then I’m going to ask the other young, eligible bachelor officers if they’ll teach me”. So my cousin panicked and said, “OK, I’ll teach you!”. But he got married a year and a half later and promptly his wife forced him to sell the bike. So the bike that I learnt to ride on became exactly the victim of what you’re talking about!
M: Now that you’re getting what I’m talking about, so a woman on a bike, especially a woman like you on a bike is enough to drive every guy nearly insane.
GP: I’m not getting the point of this question, really. It’s not like I ride a bike in a bikini! You know I’m fully clothed, more often than not I’m wearing a biker jacket because I wand to protect my elbows. You know everybody who rides a bike knows that the possibility of falling is very high. So I always ride a bike in a jacket and a helmet, so there isn’t much sexuality on display there!
M: It takes much less to get a man’s fantasies started, trust me. Now that you’ve mentioned you on a bike in a bikini!
GP: No! I said I DON’T ride a bike in a bikini, not even in Goa!
M: Ah ok, so while we’re in Goa… So the actual question I was trying to ask before you mentioned you on bike in a bikini was that you’re strong, you’re independent…is there a secret to that? Is it something you’ve moulded yourself into consciously or has it just come naturally to you?
GP: You know, I was brought up that way, very clearly. Firstly, I come from an Armed Forces background; my father always felt that there isn’t any difference between a girl and a guy, so to speak. So when there was a flat tyre, I was told to go change it, simple as that. I remember, when my father wanted the car serviced he didn’t believe in using the Army establishment to send one of the drivers to get the car serviced, I would go to the service station and I would sit there. I would be the only woman in a service station in Patiala, and you have no idea what it’s like! But I suppose that desensitized me to the way women are perceived by men. But I’ve been doing this stuff since forever. I remember there have been things that people would be shocked at, saying, “Oh my god, how can your dad make you do this?” And I’d say, “I don’t understand the difference.” So I think I was brought up to be fiercely independent and, very importantly, I was brought up to be an individual. I was brought up to stand out. I wasn’t brought up by my family to blend in and become a sheep. So the essence of my upbringing and that of my brothers, to an extent, has been about standing out and being against blending in. It’s probably from there that this whole strong and independent streak comes.
M: Who do you admire?
GP: I like Tharoor for how well spoken he is. I like Rahul Gandhi for the amount of galvanization he’s done of the youth in India. It’s suddenly become fashionable for upmarket kids in Bandra living in +10 Crore apartments to want to join the Youth Congress. Now that is an achievement, considering politics has been more about the downtrodden and the lower middle classes since the upper middle classes thought they were too good for politics! So the fact that he has managed to instill the kind of attraction in being a conscientious contributing citizen is incredible. And I think it would be incomplete if I didn’t mention my father who really is somebody from whom I’ve learnt to stand up for what you believe in is right, against all odds, even at personal risk, the importance of integrity and honesty is something I’ve seen my father practice all his life in his military career and now as a judicial officer, I think it’s incredible that one can have somebody who’s such a pillar of character and to be able to pass that on through living by example. I don’t think I can find anybody who comes close to him.
M: OK, so he was in the Army right?
GP: Yes, he retired as an Army Commander.
M: Fantastic! OK so this shoot apart, when are we seeing you in a hot movie avatar? Are we seeing you sometime soon?
GP: When the role is so good that I feel I’ll be making the mistake of a lifetime if I refuse it. Really, it’s not about oh my god, I want to be seen in a hot avatar and really it’s not about how my life will be incomplete if I don’t do a hot part. For me it has always been about how important something is vis a vis will I regret refusing to do it. If I get this great part of somebody who’s this femme fatale and who’s this really sexy chick, I would love to be part of a project like that. But, no, it’s not a prerequisite that I need to tick off a list of my things that I have done or must do in life.
M: OK, So we are just going to name a bunch of roles and you tell us which ones you’d love to play in ascending order. There’s a kickass assassin, a ravishing revolutionary, a hot teacher, a smokin’ zombie, a sexy psychotic lesbian and there’s a fantastic superhero.
GP: 1st will be an assassin, 2nd, a revolutionary and 3rd will be a superhero. Last would be sexy teacher, 2nd last would be zombie, and 3rd last would be sexy lesbian. So sexy lesbian is no. 4.
M: Great, so we’re going to kill the producers of the first three movies and go straight to no 4. And, what is your secret hot fantasy?
GP: If I shared that fantasy a) it wouldn’t be secret b) it would no longer be hot and it would seize to have its right effect on me. So for the sake of preserving my fantasy for my personal use, I will decline to comment on that. So if it becomes a non-secret, non-hot, non-fantasy, then it’s no longer fun. Obviously, I do have hot secret fantasies but it’s something, even though I’d love sharing it off record, I would rather not make it so public that it will stop being hot.
M: Of course. What would turn you on in a man. Would it be intelligence, good looks, or would it be a guy who is purely sincere, someone like a Maxim guy, someone like us?
GP: You guys, of course, absolutely turn me on. Something for me that’s a very attractive streak in a man is his desire to want to be able to live and do something for the society at large. I’m fed up of men who can only think about themselves and their personal lives. I think it takes a man extraordinaire to think about more than just himself. And that to me is phenomenal. When I find somebody who’s able to do it without sounding like he’s doing it to make an appearance. You should be able to see it in a person rather than having the person tell you about it, and to me that is a very attractive quality. The fact that somebody is so affected by what’s happening and really wants to give back to society in whatever way he can, that’s a huge turn on for me. Time for you guys to start an NGO!
I think any kind of passion is important. I think passion makes us do stuff like that. It’s also the fact that NGOs take a toll on their funds through their administrative casts and their setups, so I think anything where people get involved directly, there’s a very interesting initiative. For instance, there’s this organisation called Green Commandoes, it doesn’t ask for money, it just asks for your individual participation to make a change in the environment through sustainable easy means. I’m always vary of NGOS that want money in terms of donations, I think it should be more about action.
M: Sounds good. Anyway, getting back to our thing, what is Gul Panag’s best asset? Of course, I don’t mean just physical, I don’t mean physical or mental, I mean both.
GP: So you’re saying one physical and one mental?
M: Mental, forget it, who cares. What is your best physical asset?
GP: I think it would have to be a pair of legs because I’ve been running since I was 15. That means 15 years of running and it was, once again, because of my dad. I remember when I was 12, I wore a mini skirt to somebody’s birthday party and it was very fashionable to wear denim mini skirts and tie your hair in strange ways in those days. I was in 8th grade. And my dad said, “If you really want to have a pair of legs to be able to wear stuff like this when you’re 30, then you should start running today.” And of course I didn’t start happy, but I did, so it’s gotta be a pair of legs.
M: I think it’s the best piece of advice ever given by a man because the denim skirt you wore in the shoot has never looked hotter on anybody…
GP: Really? I’m just lying down in that, there isn’t much leg happening.
M: No trust me, there’s a lot of leg happening and a lot of good leg happening! Levi’s is probably going to want to give us a lot of money for this picture.
GP: Really? I didn’t know they were Levi’s.
M: Great! And can you give us 2-3 reasons why we should always hope for Gul to be in our lives.
GP: Ah! I can give you much more than 2-3 but I’ll limit it to that for now.
M: We can, ourselves, give you 500…
GP: You’re very, very kind. OK so I’d love to bring cheer to your life, and the other things being spice and variety in an assembly line production of the way women are constructed here, I’m somebody who chooses to be different, and by choice. I think I can definitely be counted on to make people see the other side of what’s possible.
M: Last question. We’re going to name a bunch of things, so just tell us which your favourite is and why, right? Which is your favourite bike?
GP: The Victory Hammer, it’s a comparatively new biking company set up about a little more than couple of years ago. It’s not fashionable like the Harleys or VMAX. Great looking bike though!
M: I’ve seen it. It’s a man’s bike. It’s a man’s hardcore…
GP: It’s a cruiser; I’m a fan of cruisers. I do not like racers at all. I think it’s important to be able to sit comfortably for a couple of hours, so it’ll be nice if you can source a picture of the Victory Hammer and stick it in this piece. It’s by far my most favourite bike.
M: Definitely. Which is your favourite film?
GP: I’m a fan of Guy Ritchie’s films, so, Snatch. I’m a huge, huge Jason Statham fan, like you’ve no idea how big!
M: No we do, trust me. All of us in Maxim have a Jason Stratham alter ego. Every issue of Maxim will have one article where the Jason Statham alter ego comes in. You should read it.
GP: I’m just going to hang around whichever part of London he lives in on my next visit to London or Manchester or wherever in the UK he’s from. And, just wait till I finally go up to him and tell him what I think of him. I think he’s so hot! So hot!
M: Bloody tough!
GP: And that’s why I like him, because he’s so tough!
M: Yeah, he finds us flirting with you while you’re waiting for him, he’ll come and beat the shit out of us…
GP: Haha, very flattering!
M: Again, this is very clichéd, but which is your favourite book or author or whatever?
GP: My favourite book varies from time to time and is usually what I’m reading right now, which is called 1984 by George Orwell, who also wrote Animal Farm, which was one of my earlier favourite books a couple of years ago. So right now my favourite book would be 1984 and Catch 22.
M: Yeah, Catch 22, Joseph Heller. It’s a good book.
GP: Yeah, if you manage to turn the pages. It’s a hard read at times, gets on your nerves.
M: Yeah, you feel really good once you’ve finished it, that’s a fact.
GP: I second that.
M: Your favourite city?
GP: I don’t know… I’m not a city person.
M: Ok, your favourite town, village, location? Where would you rather be than here?
GP: One of my favourite places in the world is this place called Wellington in Tamil Nadu , where the Staff College is and the area around there has beautiful forests. It’s a part of the larger Nilgiris and it’s got some absolutely beautiful trees, it’s really, really pretty. It’s not a big town, it’s a small town, but it’s really pretty. And the area around it also, not just Wellington, but the area surrounding it is also spectacular.
M: Yeah, we can thank the Army for keeping it so clean. My God, they’re religious about it. It’s like a temple for them. That’s the way every city in the world should look like.
M: Who’s your favourite Indian female actor? You can’t name yourself.
GP: OK, I like Konkona Sen. I really like her work and I like the simplicity with which she approaches.
M: OK, you’ve got our vote on that as well. She’s very good. Have you ever worked with her?
GP: No, I haven’t.
M: OK, and which according to you is the hottest one? Again, you can’t name yourself!
GP: I did say Deepika Padukone, didn’t I?
M: You said she’s the most beautiful…
GP: Oh, then I think Lara has serious potential to be the hottest. I think Lara’s the hottest.
M: Great, Maxim men must be going crazy right now. Deepika’s the prettiest, Konkona’s the best actress, Lara’s the hottest and then you have Gul Panag. My god, what we can do with our imagination at this point. This is the stuff great writing is written for, you know. Joseph Heller, take a walk baba, this is us now.