Zaina Mistry is upright and honest: Gul Panag on her role in ‘Good Bad Girl’

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Gul Panag is starring as Zaina Mistry in ‘Good Bad Girl’, a web series which is now streaming on Sony LIV. WION’s Manas Joshi had a chat with the actress about her role. In the series, she has acted along with Samridhi Dewan who has portrayed an ambitious woman (Maya Ahuja) keen to become a partner in the law firm run by Panag’s character.

Gul Panag: I play Zaina Mistry who is a very career driven, very in-control lawyer. She is running this law firm which she inherited from her father, it’s called Mistry & Mistry. She has a younger brother Sahil Mistry who is played by Vaibhav Raj Gupta of ‘Gullak’. And Maya Ahuja is also another, young and ambitious lawyer at my law firm.

Maya Ahuja is the quintessential ‘Good Bad Girl’. She’s good but she’s a bad girl, as society sees her. She is very ambitious and someone who won’t let anything get in the way of her ambition which is to make partner at the law firm she works at, which is my firm. And in the process of her ambition and her journey…she is naughty, and how that impacts her, is really the trigger point at which the story starts.

WION: So is it a legal comedy?

Gul Panag: The show is funny in large parts, But it’s not a legal drama in a quintessential manner. It is a show set in a law firm. But it deals with more with the law firm politics, the law firm rivalries. It is a workplace drama more than a legal drama. There are very few court scenes so it’s not a regular courtroom drama. It’s really about human behaviour and how human beings will do what they have to do to achieve the roles and the goals that they have set for themselves.

WION: The trailer of the show appears to have Delhi vibes but it is set in Mumbai. So is there a clash of attitudes between the two cities which leads to humour?

Gul Panag: This is very good material for a new show to write and one should write that. But this show does not really deal with the Delhi-Mumbai competition. Maya Ahuja is from Delhi. That’s the only Delhi connection. Apart from that, she lives in Mumbai. The law firm is in Mumbai. The humour really comes from how Maya goes about tackling situations that life throws at her.

WION: From the trailer, we can see that your character Zaina is, if not bossy, then very much in control of things. Just a wordplay on the show’s name…is Zaina a good woman or a bad woman?

Gul Panag: I think Zaina would be the quintessential good daughter who is trying to live up to the dreams her father set for her. She is struggling, to put together and hold together the firm. She is somebody who is a woman of very few words. She will not let on more than she needs to. She is somebody who is fairly honest and is upright.

WION: How was your experience working with Samridhi Dewan who is playing Maya Ahuja, the lead of the show?

Gul Panag: I think Samridhi is supremely talented. She is very driven. She blew me away with the way she performed Maya. So Maya is written as a very quirky, very layered character. Shows which are ‘woman-centric’ tend to be very one-dimensional in terms of layering. We have stereotypical portrayals of strong women. Strong women can come in all shades; black, white and everything that’s in between.

Samridhi’s character is someone with multiple shades. Every shade of the rainbow. But what she (Dewan) has done with it as an actor is phenomenal. The way she has played Maya has blown me away.

WION: Any upcoming projects you would like to tell us about?

Gul Panag: I have a film out with Nagarjuna, it’s called ‘Ghost’, a high-powered action thriller. I play one of the principal characters. It has also been dubbed in Hindi. I am very excited about that.

Apart from that, I am on the lookout for what else I want to do. What I would love to do is play a cop, play an army officer, play a lawyer in an actual courtroom drama series. That’s my wishlist right now.

WION: Your reaction to the ‘boycott culture,’ which appears to have become all-pervading.

Gul Panag: I think you have to see the genesis of ‘boycott’ or ‘cancel culture’. Genesis is the public discourse and shrinking space for alternate opinion, or other opinions which don’t seem to match the majoritarian point of view. The space to be able to voice an opinion that isn’t necessarily in sync with what a majority of the people could be on multiple lines, it could be on the religious lines or on the matter of nationalism or what is considered to be the definition of nationalism. It could also be (about) something as large and difficult to define as patriotism.

Space to voice an alternative opinion is shrinking.

Genesis of the cancel culture lies in the shrinking space for alternative opinions. And that is largely led by an institutionalised framework on social media whose job it is to drive the current. To drive the majority opinion. Collect the majority opinion, organise it and make an environment for it to be used against those who disagree with majority opinion.

There are also major set-ups that ensure that something that is put out is instantly retweeted thousands of times in a matter of 10 minutes. This doesn’t happen organically.

(‘Good Bad Girl’ is now streaming on Sony LIV)

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