Gul Panag's travelling campaign combines her love for automobiles and need to move beyond gender stereotypes

In June this year, with an intent to create a campaign — a platform of sorts — that would help people confront their own stereotypes and break them thereafter, Mumbai-based actor, producer, fitness enthusiast and a poster woman for India’s automotive industry, Gul Panag, launched Her Drive.


Stemming from the most common gender stereotype that exists amongst women when it comes to the idea of cars and bikes, Her Drive was envisaged — after much deliberation — to access and communicate with women and allow them to discover what, in a sense, “drives” them.

“The thing is,” Panag says, sitting at a coffee shop in Chennai, “I often think about how I got here and I’m convinced that I didn’t do anything special to become a part of this automotive club, so to speak. I just happened to be famous and took up every opportunity that came my way in that space — because I was inherently curious, nearly fearless and always challenging gender stereotypes.” Her Drive, a travelling campaign that is touring eight cities across India, is a platform that engages women in conversations and celebrates their everyday achievements, and does that, in Panag’s own words — “consciously, without ever segregating women into working women or homemakers”.


At Zulaikha Motors’ showroom in Nandanam last Sunday, a bunch of women from all walks of life, “draped in Kanjeevarams and dresses”, heard Panag share her own journey in following her many interests and living a slew of life-changing experiences.

Over the years, Panag has carved for herself, partly by design but largely by default, an almost monopolistic spot as an influencer in a space that has largely remained male dominated. Amongst the first Asian women to drive the Formula E car and with a host of shows that had her explore unchartered terrain in the country and around the globe, this actor, who recently featured on Amazon Prime’s original show, The Family Man, segued almost organically into this space.

Growing up in Chandigarh and Patiala, Panag was surrounded by bikes and cars and almost always opted for what was considered a “male vehicle” over a more petite, feminine version. “I remember my very spiffy American Pie-like high school in Zambia, Africa, and I’d often wonder why all the girls naturally read fashion magazines and all the boys gravitated to magazines on bikes and cars,” she says, “Perhaps it is due to my own inherent competitive streak to stand out that I decided back then that I’d be that girl who’d read both.”

That keenness and curiosity for life has also manifested in her career in cinema. Over the years, Panag — who recently got her Master’s in Political Science and who procured a pilot’s licence because it was her desire to fly “and not become a pilot, you see the difference” — has essayed roles that are, in a sense, written with her in mind. For instance, in Student of the Year 2, and in The Family Man, the character reflects a certain kind of athleticism of body and mind. “I like that I’m not being fit into parts but parts are being scripted with my personality in mind,” she says.

Panag is travelling with her team that is part of Her Drive, and her 20-month-old son, Nihal, who makes sure his mother is becoming a “better version of herself, everyday”.

Just two days before we meet, Her Drive had released its anthem, ‘Ladki Bindass Hai’ (this girl has no hang-ups), with lyrics that are real and hummable.

Panag is a compelling poster girl for the initiative that she hopes will have more women, look within, and discover their own drive.

Related Topics
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jan 27, 2021 7:13:05 PM |

Next Story