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Out of the arc lights, into Dhoop

RANA SIDDIQUI speaks to Gul Panag, in Delhi for the promotion of "Dhoop", her Bollywood debut vehicle, and finds her a sensitive and courteous youngster.



Gul Panag... sunshine time. Photo: S. Arneja.

SHE COMES dressed in a skin tight, brown knee-length glazed outfit, sporting pencil heels, golden shoes, flashes a pearly, dimpled smile, poses for shutterbugs and says, showing her wristwatch, "I am sorry if you had been waiting long. I was told to come at six, and see I am not even a second late." No, she is not. She is at Ashok Hotel in New Delhi to announce her debut in Bollywood through Ashwini Chowdhary's "Dhoop" in which she plays Bihu, the fiancé of a Kargil martyr. After his death, she becomes the support for his family undergoing emotional turmoil and tries to bail them out of it.

For those in the modelling or beauty business, acting seems a natural progression. But rest assured, Gul Panag had one more reason to join films - her love for theatre. She had been involved in it during her school days too. And her theatre days in the United Kingdom after school "brushed her up" a lot.

"Theatre enables you to think, sensitises you and helps you look at one thing from different perspectives. Stepping into Bihu's shoes wasn't possible. What one goes through in such situations is what I would keep thinking." This is where her theatre days came in handy. But she assures you, "I am completely a director's actress. It's his vision that I try to live on screen, hence if I act well, it's 99.99 per cent his credit rather than mine. Though I try to give inputs between shots, by and large I follow the director's words. When people congratulate me on my acting in the serial "Kashmir", I wonder what I have done in it on my own. I did what my director told me to, so the entire credit goes to him." Sensible girl, and sincere attitude, that lucidly showed in her behaviour and the film that she has chosen for a debut.

"I can't relate to films in which audiences go to watch a girl only. I always wanted to begin with a film that could touch the sensibility of educated minds, a film that I would myself prefer to watch for its value," she reasons clearly. And she has another reason not to sign a run-of-the-mill film for a debut. "Almost all new heroines have done that: come, play second fiddle to the hero, sing, dance and go back. I never wanted to do that." But yes, singing, dancing and looking ravishing on screen is not always a strict no-no for her.

"Look, being in films and also modelling, I just cannot keep the glamour part away from me. It is not possible for me to chuck it in a bin. But I definitely wish to establish myself as an actor rather than a star. Many become stars and remain so for long but are never called actors. I would not want to be categorised in that division."

Let's believe her on this count, for she has "rejected many roles as they were not sensitive." And then there is an "important film" that the director has requested her "not to talk about". What is reel life, after all, without that dash of suspense?

R. S.

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