The 95th Academy Awards have just happened and the event brought immense joy and pride to the nation with two historic wins at the prestigious event with ‘Naatu Naatu’ and ‘The Elephant Whisperers’.
This victory becomes even more special for us as Punjabis because ‘The Elephant Whisperers’ is backed by Guneet Monga, a Punjabi who has not only represented the nation but also the community at a global level. Also Read : Sara Ali Khan Relishes Scrumptious Food In The City Beautiful-Chandigarh
Her journey has been quite inspiring about which many of you might not be knowing.
Guneet grew up in Delhi, where she received her primary education. Being clueless in the initial phase of her career, she wanted to be anything or everything- a DJ, a car rally enthusiast, an insurance agent at Tata AIG. However, by the age of 18, the young film buff in Monga was enthralled as she observed her friend's mother, Anureeta Saigal, who used to work on international film production.
It was then she started interning with her in the year 2003. After completing her mass communications, she started as production coordinator for international productions, most notably Vic Sarin’s ‘Partition’. She shifted to Mumbai in 2006. Also Read : Yo Yo Honey Singh Treats Fans With Documentary Announcement, Produced By Guneet Monga
“All of my friends and I were studying mass communication. We all decided to move to Mumbai and make Hindi films together. So, I took Rs.75 lakh from my neighbour after discouraging him from making children’s videos and posting them online. I created a business plan for a film and convinced him to give me the money by promising him he would get it back.”
Monga moved to Mumbai and made her debut film, ‘Say Salaam India,’ with director Subhash Kapoor in 2007, under the banner of her first production company, ‘Speaking Tree Films,’ which she founded with partner Harish Amin. Unfortunately for Monga, the film, which was based on a children’s cricket team, was not successful. The film was released on the day India made a disgraceful exit from the World Cup. Also Read :
The programming heads of every cinema refused to screen the film. All the reels came back and it was around the same time, she was hired to line produce ‘Ghajini’ but she left the job and decided to recover the money.
Being a smart woman, she sold it to schools for private shows. They would pay Rs. 50 for the show and allowed 1,000 students per screening and booked theatres for them. She also hired students from schools as her interns to spread the word and eventually sold the movie across schools in Delhi and towns in Punjab. Eight months later, the money was completely recovered and she was back in Mumbai to continue making films, this time under her own banner, Sikhya Entertainment.
In the year 2008, she made ‘Rang Rasiya’ and sleeper hit, ‘Dasvadaniya’ with lead actor Vinay Pathak in 2008.
Up until now everything might sound smooth but who knew 2009 was turning out to be a turbulent year for her. With a mixed bag in the year, Monga after losing both her parents and shutting shop in Delhi, moved back to Mumbai to begin work on Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai for Balaji Telefilms.
It was around this time that she met her mentor, Anurag Kashyap who was enjoying the success of the release of his ‘Dev. D’. By then, he was being known as the face of independent cinema in India. Also Read : Cult Filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali & His Finally Established Punjabi Connection!
As he got to know about Monga’s success in the past, he took her on board for his production company, Anurag Kashyap Films (AKFPL). Over time, the banner just shifted their projects to Sikhya, which is now co-owned by Kashyap.
The radical change happened in 2012 with ‘Gangs Of Wasseypur’ which was released in two parts and went to mint Rs. 23 crores. The film was also released at the Cannes Film Festival that year along with Monga’s pet project ‘Peddlers’.
This was just a start and then ‘The Lunchbox’ was released in association with Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions and UTV Disney in 2013, making her way to the mainstream cinema. The film was released in several International Film Festivals including ‘BAFTA’, ‘Filmfare’, ‘TFCA’ and Cannes Film Festival.
In 2019 she had her first breakthrough for the short documentary, ‘Period: End Of Sentence’
However, this did not indicate that she was at ease; rather, the filmmaker was depressed because ‘Peddlers’ had yet to be released. While many would have given up at this point, Monga, ever the warrior, learned the martial art of kalaripayattu in Puducherry, went on a detox, and travelled the world in search of answers.
“I had so many careers linked to me,” she said in an interview, recalling the time. I was in charge of many first-time directors. How could I possibly give up on that? I’m currently developing a business plan for alternative distribution, and we hope to launch the network in three months.” Her silver-colored hair, which is slowly growing back, shines as she admits to being fearless. “My dad was running a business of his own. The fearlessness comes from him. He always told us, ‘Jo hoga dekha jaayega. Jitne paise hai, saare kharch kar do. Tum mein itni education hai, itni akal hai ke raat ko kabhi bhookha nahi sona padega.’ I’m glad it worked out. I’m happy waking up tomorrow morning to make movies and serve my directors because that’s the business I am in.”
Well, it was probably her fearlessness and love for films that propelled her to success.
One must always have belief in one’s dreams and give them wings! Kudos to her!