Special Mission: Actor Gul Panag celebrates the triumph of the human spirit in a new podcast of true stories on Spotify

Actress Gul Panag, who is the narrator of the podcast "Special Mission", which is a tribute to the Indian Armed Forces talks about the show, how to make fitness a part of your life and how she spent her time during the lockdown

You have seen her in Paatal Lok, the latest web series on Amazon Prime, and in movies like Student of the Year 2 and Bypass Road and many more films, in countless ads and on the political arena too.

Gul Panag, the stunning actress who is also a half marathoner, biker, certified pilot, health activist and fitness advocate is best known for her incredible combination of beauty and brains.

Today, she is onto a new venture as she turns narrator for the Spotify Original Podcast, Special Mission. This podcast is a heartfelt tribute to the Indian Armed Forces and is narrated by Gul Panag and created and curated by Saishree Ashwin.

Special Mission, the podcast brings you unheard stories around diverse topics like international rescue missions, stories of regimental legends, of love, of honor and even the animals that serve in the forces. It features real-life stories of the Indian Armed Forces that go beyond valour, traversing the extraordinary, behind-the-scene lives of so many heroes, heroines and their families.

With some episodes of the podcast already out, the show has been appreciated for its depth, character, and ability to tug at the heartstrings of all those who listen in. The show has been produced by Rainshine Entertainment and ATS Studio. The music is by Madhav Ayachit and the writer is Vishal Dayama.

In an interaction with YSWeekender, actress Gul Panag talks about the new podcast, how she spent her time during the lockdown and why it is so important to stay fit...

Gul Panag

Edited excerpts from the interview…

What have you been doing during the COVID-19 pandemic?

It has been a complete roller coaster of a time during the lockdown. I was barely keeping my head above the water over the first couple of weeks. I have a two- year-old child, two dogs and a house to run, and a lot of work obligations that I had to meet. It was very challenging to manage everything that I was doing, which I had earlier done via delegation. It was a handful but I am getting better at it.

The latter part of the lockdown, however, has seen me evolving at a personal level. I am a lot more self-reliant and I also realise that we can do with a lot less than what we were used to. That is a fundamental and profound change in a lot of us, which I have also experienced.

Have you discovered any new or interesting hobbies?

Most of my hobbies are outdoors- I enjoy adventure sports, off road biking, flying (I am a hobby pilot) and travelling. None of this has been possible at this time, but what I have been doing is launching a platform called Hobbyist World. This is a platform that my husband and I set up to curate hobbies and educate people about the universe of hobbies out there and build a community of fellow hobbyists.

On the platform, we talk about hobbies and the interesting ways to pursue hobbies in these times. We have profiled a lot of hobbies during the last couple of weeks and we also talk about how hobbies are a known solution to anxiety issues. I'd like to say I have been reading but I don’t’ have the bandwidth. I typically get done with my day at 11pm at night and my son wakes me up at 6am in the morning. It is a really long day and I am on my feet most of the time. But it has made me fitter, if that is one takeaway from this pandemic.

How did you become a part of the Special Mission podcast that offers real-life stories of the Indian Armed Forces?

I have known Sidin (Vadukut, Co-founder, ATS Studio) and Gaurav (Vaz, co-producer) for some time now. Both of them know that I am from an Indian Armed Forces background and that I am extremely passionate about the Indian Armed Forces. I have always worn my Army Brat (acronym for ‘Being Relocated all the time’) with pride. So, when this project came up, without batting an eyelid I said I would give my left arm to be part of a show like this.

It is an incredible honour and privilege for me for me to be telling these stories to the public. I am familiar with these kinds of stories and there are hundreds of the such stories of human bravery, triumph of the human spirit, and people who overcome what appears to be insurmountable challenges. So, I am delighted and grateful that Spotify decided to commission a show like this and that I was considered to be a part of it.

I think it is a badge of honour for me to be able to give back in whatever little way I can to the organisation and to the community and the tight knit family that has given me so much.

Have you done narrations before?

I have not done this before but have been part of the entertainment industry and I have done a fair bit of voice over work. I have a production company and we make content ranging from TV to movies to digital and I have often chosen the voice-over format to tell stories when I produce a show. So, I have been accustomed to narrating but often the narrations that I do are overlaid on visuals. This is the first time I am relying on the strength of my narration skills to be able to communicate what is out there.

Which of the stories of Special Mission are really close to your heart?

I think Indu’s story is really close to my heart. She is somebody who literally turned a disaster to triumph. To be able to use a personal and devastating loss and to rise from it like phoenix was incredible, and I have so much respect for her.

What did the producers aim for with this project?

Gul Panag is the narrator of the Special Mission podcasts

The creators were essentially looking to tell a different side of the Indian Armed Forces that the average public would not know about. For me, it was an opportunity to be able to tell stories that I know existed. I come from a third generation Army family and we’ve known of these incredible inspirational stories and I am glad that I had the opportunity to tell these stories.

Gul Panag is a fitness buff

How do you keep fit?

I have been ingrained into a fitness lifestyle for over 25 years. I was introduced to formal fitness and forced to comply at the age of 15 when my father said there was no escaping regular exercise.

But by the age of 16, I began to like it. It was definitely forced compliance but again it was compliance of something that I had seen my father do.

He always led and still leads by example. Now, he is 71 years old and makes sure he cycles 35 kms a day. Currently he can’t go outdoors but does it indoors and he shares his workout details everyday with me via his Apple watch. At the end of the day I say – oh my God- my father has burnt 700 calories and has been up and about since morning.

We have a fitness bent of mind in our family. My husband is extremely fit. Very often we do these fitness challenges and my husband always comes out on top. Fitness for us is a way of life.

Can you share any fitness tips with our readers?

Over time you have to make fitness a part of your life. You have to treat it like you brush your teeth. On one odd day you may forget to brush your teeth, and there will be no calamity, but if you miss brushing a couple of days in a row, there will be cavities and plaque to deal with.

Exercise is like that. You have got to exercise regularly to make sure that you are in the very best possible condition because your body is the only medium for you to live life and you should take care of it.

The only tip that I have to share with you is to do something every day that contributes towards fitness. It could be 10 pushups or two minutes of burpees it could be anything. The reason being: A small workout is better than no workout. Ideally, a big workout is better than a small workout but definitely a small workout is better than none.

In exercise it is all about consistency and not intensity. There is no point working out hard for three days and not being able to do anything on day 4 and day 5. So, start with bite-sized, small achievable goals to begin with even if it is for 10 minutes a day. Don’t’ push yourself do something too much.

You are a motivation to a lot of young girls and women out there. Any message that you would like to give to them?

It is incumbent upon all of us to be the best version of ourselves so that we may be role models for those who may be on the fence of pursuing their dreams. Whenever there is a choice in how to conduct yourself, you must conduct yourself as a role model and set the path for people who may not have the opportunities that you have had. I only have followed the path that many trailblazers have laid before me.

I take the responsibility of being a role model very seriously and I try and choose the right thing to do because you don’t know whose life you may influence in a particular manner on any given day. It could at an airport, during a delay that is not handled well by an airline or in a restaurant where something hasn’t gone right. How you conduct yourself during these situations will be something that someone might choose to emulate. I choose to be cognizant of the fact that I could be a role model for others out there.

Only you can decide what to do with your life. Don’t let anyone preempt your choices. Don’t let anyone put you in a box. Only you can decide what is possible. Ultimately, human beings are truly limitless.
Edited by Asha Chowdary


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