Gul Panag has just had lunch and is in need of a coffee, black, to be precise. But the actor-former beauty queen-producer-content-maker and now writer is in a happy place, not just professionally and personally, but also because she is in the city to attend Literati - Chandigarh Lit Fest 2013, organised by the Chandigarh Literary Society, that kick started at the Chandigarh Lake Club here on Saturday.
The actor, known to be vociferous on issues of importance, is in her own words, “trying to mitigate the baggage that comes with being a beauty queen through education (she just completed a master’s in political science and is keen to study law next) and by being actively involved in speaking and reading.” Gul believes that lit fests, that seem to be mushrooming all over the country, do a lot for encouraging people’s habit of reading. “In an age of electronically-driven devices ruling our lives, reading and writing isn’t happening anymore,” rues the former Miss India, adding that the fest is like a “masterclass on so many subjects”.
Soon to turn author with a book on health, wellness and fitness, Gul says her book, expected to be out early next year, will include all that she has learnt in the 15 years that she has been a part of the entertainment industry. “I’ve talked about fitness and how to achieve it effortlessly,” she announces. The actor says she doesn’t work out for more than three days a week, but lets out a secret: “It’s all about what you eat and if it is justified by being burnt.”
Last seen in the 2013 Punjabi film Sikander, Gul reiterates a fact we all know — she does films that justify her time. However, Sikander disappointed her. “It started with something else and along the way, the filmmakers attempted to give it a different direction. There is always an attempt to make a film as commercially viable as possible. But, if, while being entertained, a film also provokes a thought, that’s great,” she says.
Gul says she comes from the realism-based school of cinema, something that people can relate to. About Punjabi films making money, she agrees profusely, adding that she credits the multiplex culture for a spurt in regional films being made. “Multiplexes have brought people back to cinemas to watch Punjabi films. They are also where women feel safer than they would in a single-screen theatre,” she adds.
Having kept a balance between her personal and professional lives, Gul says she makes an effort to show that she has a side to her personality that is not related to films. It’s perhaps why she comes up with approximately three names when asked who her friends in Bollywood are — Sanjay Suri, Sona Mahapatra and Randeep Hooda. “But, there are a lot of people I meet on twitter,” Gul says chirpily.
Active on various social media forums, especially twitter, Gul reveals she recently even wrote a travel piece for Conde Nast Traveller that was crafted with twitter inputs. “My entire journey from Zurich to Geneva was made up of tweets,” she smiles, and begs to be excused for an especially interesting session she is eager to listen to.