Gul Panag on South vs Bollywood row: Why wasn’t Veer Zaara made in Punjabi?
In a detailed conversation with Hindustan Times, Gul Panag talked about the never-ending debate of pan-India films from the South industry taking over the Hindi audience. She recently made her Telugu film debut with Nagarjuna's The Ghost.
Gul Panag recently starred in her first Telugu film The Ghost starring Nagarjuna. Looking back on memories with the South superstar, Gul told Hindustan Times with glee, “Nag sir is breathtakingly charming. He has an amazing amount of charisma and a vibe that says ‘there’s no one cooler than him’.” Also read: Gul Panag bagged law degree
Gul is among the many Bollywood actors to cross the language barrier this year and mark her debut in the South. The actor took help from a language coach for two months before the film shoot. Although Gul remained nervous for 2-3 days initially during the film shoot, later things fell back into place.
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 comes amid the never-ending debate on pan-India films from the South industry taking over the Hindi audience. 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 firmly believes that firstly a film has to be good in itself to earn success among the audience. “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 about the language row, many people were also left upset on Twitter when Chhello Show (Last Film Show) became India’s entry for the Best International Feature Film for the 95th Academy Awards. It left behind films like The Kashmir Files and RRR, which ruled the domestic box office. Ask Gul Panag about it, she questioned back, “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.