Over the years, producer Guneet Monga has established a reputation for being a messiah for indie films. The filmmaker, who has backed strong, off beat, content-driven films, was recently awarded the Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters, the second highest civilian French honour in the Capital.
“It came as complete surprise, it blew me away. I felt like my life coming together being born and brought up in Delhi, starting as an intern with a French and German film in 2004 called Valley of Flowers. and then going to the Cannes Film Festival with so many of my films such as Gangs of Wasseypur, Peddlers, The Lunchbox, Monsoon Shootout and Masaan. Looking back it feels amazing for the French embassy and French institute to acknowledge my work and to give me this honour. It is extremely humbling,” shares Monga.
Talking about her journey so far as a female filmmaker, Monga, who is a former winner of the HT Youth Forum award, says it has been incredible. But there have also been challenges that had come her way.
“I think I always felt discriminated for age, being just very young. I used to think back when I started that maybe I should colour my hair white or I should wear a sari and I prayed to get spectacles. I was 26 when I produced Ganges of Wasseypur, now I am 37. That time I used to project being in my ‘40s to be taken seriously. I have faced ageism but definitely not gender discrimination,” she says.
Looking back, Monga says the highlight of her career has been The Lunchbox (2013), which starred (late) Irrfan, Nimrat Kaur and Nawazuddin Siddiqui.
“It was India and France’s first co-production. The treaty between India and France was signed in 1985 and The Lunchbox was the first one to use that treaty in 2012,” she adds.
The producer also shares that in her time in the industry, she has witnessed a sea of change in the Indian cinema realm.
“I have definitely seen Indian independent cinema come of age. From going to festivals being a taboo to being very cool and a privilege. Looking at my journey with Say Salaam India (2007), Dasvidaniya (2008) to Oscar winning documentary short film Period. End of Sentence. (2018) to now Soorarai Pottru (2019) and Pagglait, I can say that it has been a decade of independent cinema. I have thrived on the periphery of Bollywood and been able to have our own little universe of creators,” she ends.