She is perhaps the only beauty queen in Bollywood who has never thought twice before taking up non-glamorous roles. Critically acclaimed Dhoop, Dor, Manorma Six Feet Under, Turning 30 and Fatso to name a few. Her latest, Ab Tak Chhappan 2, is no different. Gul Panag—who plays a TV reporter, Shalu Dikshit—is the only female star in this power-packed, male-dominated cast of Ram Gopal Varma’s film.
“I’ve not played a role like this before. Shalu is cool; she has guts and is curious. She’s able to take a stand when she thinks it’s needed, and is getting at the root of trouble. Working with Nana Patekar who’s so amazingly talented is a fantastic experience,” says Gul.
Gul believes Ab Tak Chhappan 2 is a true sequel, as “it begins exactly where Part 1 left, unlike many others you see today”. A lot of Ab Tak Chhappan 2, she says, has been inspired by real-life encounter cops, case reports etc, and pieced together into an interesting script.
To add authenticity to her character, Gul adopted a no-nonsense look. “I look like a typical crime reporter. I wear jeans, T-shirts and glasses, unlike the high-heeled, designer-suited look you see sometimes in films. My hair’s shorter than ever,” says Gul. It was Varma who insisted that she chop her hair really short. “I’ve always been questioned about my decision to cut my hair short when the trend among actors is to keep it long. To chop it even further was radical. But RGV convinced me.”
This is the second project that Gul is doing with Varma after Rann. “When you are working with someone of the calibre of RGV, rest assured you are in safe hands. RGV and I are on the same wavelength. After working together on Rann, we always knew we’d work together when the part was right,” she says.
Ab Tak Chhappan 2 apart, Gul is now busy giving final touches to her first Punjabi film Sarsa. She will not only be acting in the film but also co-producing it. The film, based on student politics in Punjab, is being directed by Jatinder Mauhar of Mitti fame. Gul will portray the character of Beant Kaur, a strong village girl, an anarchist who is not anti-establishment, but a progressive rebel. The title of the movie has been inspired by the river Sarsa and the metaphorical representation is the symbol of upheavals in Punjab.
“It’s a content-heavy film with the right mix of entertainment and social message. It speaks of how student politics is the microcosm for the macrocosm of state politics. It also touches upon drugs, a problem rampant among the youth of Punjab,” the actor says. The movie is in the post-production stage.
Why did she choose to invest in a Punjabi film and not a Hindi flick? “It just worked out in terms of timing. Since Sarsa is a gripping story of youth politics in Punjab, I think it’ll have great resonance, especially in today’s context. It will have a market outside the state too because of the interesting story line. I might well do a Hindi film next as a producer too,” she says.
About her hatke choice of films, the model-turned-actress says she doesn’t want anybody to slot her into a stereotype. “I always want to do films that could touch the sensibility of educated minds, films that I would myself prefer to watch for its value,” reasons Gul. “My long-term perspective is simple. I want to do cinema which turns out to be a milestone in history. I want to make a substantial enough contribution,” she says.