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Interview : Guneet Monga

'Guneet Monga: Anurag Kashyap is a mentor and
father figure of my life'

Voted as one of the top 12 women achievers in the Global Entertainment industry by Hollywood Reporter and among the top 50 Indians changing India by India Today, noted film producer Guneet Monga has successfully created an alternative audience, not restricted by region or geography, and channelized the right stream for Indian films at a global level. She has paved the way for Indian cinema globally with her films premiering at prestigious film festivals like Cannes, Venice, Sundance, Toronto, BFI: London and many more. She is also among the few Indian producers who is working with some of the largest film sales agencies globally.

Guneet, who is credited with having produced films such as THE LUNCHBOX, GANGS OF WASSEYPUR, PEDDLERS, THAT GIRL IN YELLOW BOOTS and SHAITAN amongst others along with Anurag Kashyap, has now ventured into ad and corporate film production with a new entity called 'Golden Gaddi Films'. While her Sikhya Entertainment will continue producing feature films.

Excerpts from an interview with the go-getter Guneet Monga:


Any specific reason for rechristening AKFPL as Sikhya Entertainment?
Well we have not rechristened AKFPL as Sikhya. Both operate as separate companies. Just that moving forward the work will happen under Sikhya Entertainment. The reason for the same was to ensure that Anurag's directorial ventures were not being confused as those he and we wish to produce.

Why a separate entity 'Golden Gaddi Films' for making Ad films than producing under Sikhya banner?
Once again we consciously chose to establish Sikhya Entertainment as a production house attributed to good cinema and Golden Gaddi as that which produces Ad films. It is imperative for us that each of the companies is attributed to its core business.

We haven't seen you taking active participation in Phantom Films, which again involves Anurag Kashyap. Why is it so?
Personally, I think what Phantom with Anurag, Madhu, Vikas and Vikramaditya has achieved is wonderful and for me, it's just such a learning to see them make all this magic happen. I have known them for the longest time and have always been a support system. They are just a call away for anything that is needed and vice-versa. On a day-to-day level, I have my hands full with Sikhya, AKFPL and Golden Gaddi.

'Anurag Kashyap is like encyclopedia of cinema '

Generally, women do not seem to gravitate towards fillm production. What fascinated you to take up this facet of movie-making?
Well, this is all I understand and I am so glad it's that way. Actually there are so many women in this field, like Ekta Kapoor, Ashvini Yardi, Amrita Pandey, Pooja Shetty, etc and I always believed that our industry does not much care about the gender of the person as much it cares about the age of the person. I began early in Delhi when my best friend's mom hired me to be a production assistant on the sets of an international film. Since then there has been no looking back.

Working in a male-dominated industry, was it difficult to carve a niche that too in the independent cinema?
Not at all. For me, since I was 23 I started doing these business meetings and structuring films, my age was more of an issue. But over time, I think people have come to terms with the fact that they had no other option but to look beyond my age. Anurag always told me surround yourself with good people, do good work and the world will take notice and just stay on the path. That's what I have been trying to do and want to be doing.

How was it getting a foothold in the industry?
Honestly, not difficult at all. I have had the good fortune of Anurag being my mentor. Everyone I have met or interacted with have been genuine, kind and visionaries and I think that way I have been lucky. From directors like Vasan Bala, Shlok, Neeraj, Amit Kumar, Ritesh Batra to actors like Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Huma Qureshi, Irrfan Khan, Emraan Hashmi, Geetanjali, Ayushman, Shweta and even producers and collaborators like Karan, UTV, Viacom18, DAR, ASAP films etc.

Tell us about your and Anurag's chemistry? Do you share same sensibilities?
Not at all, far from the same sensibilities. He is like this encyclopedia of cinema that I keep learning from. Anurag is my mentor and the father figure of my life. We share a common dream of making and being part of a legacy of cinema that when looked back in time, is something we are proud of.

Any plans to wield megaphone and don director's hat someday?
I have learned 'never to say never'. So who knows maybe one day...I kept saying I would never act, but went and did precisely that. But currently I don't see that happening anytime soon, especially because I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by some of the best directors in the industry.


Would Sikhya shift to producing out-n-out commercial ventures or the big-budgeted films?
I never understood what one meant by commercial films. In my vocabulary, any film that makes commerce is a commercial film. All our films have done that. THE LUNCHBOX is breaking records with the sort of international collections it is doing and is a success in India too, same with GANGS OF WASSEYPUR or SHAITAN. We are in the business of making good films, so if one day that film is a 100 crore budget film, I am sure we would still do it, as we are in it to be able to tell the story the manner the director envisioned it.

Would you foray into Television?
Like I said, I never-say-never. At this point in time, we are in early talks and exploring the opportunity, as I think it's a great medium to be able to explore the cinematic sensibilities and ideas, taking it to the small screen. However, it's still early to make announcements and at this point in time want to focus on making our feature films and ad films.

How did you bridge the gap between Indian films and foreign buyers and distributors?
The beauty of it is that we don't have to. Good cinema always travels. Cinema is a universal language and the world today is looking forth at India for the stories that we are telling. I think one crucial way is definitely festivals and just in general traveling to various markets and sharing experiences and networking internationally. I am proud to say that I have had the fortune of being able to do a large amount of that also because of Anurag and the sort of directors we have and films we have been doing. Today buyers internationally understand that in India it is not necessarily only 'song and dance' films. That's taken time, but in general it is just a great time for Indian cinema.

'Today buyers internationally understand India is not necessarily only song-and-dance films '

You have been influential in taking small films with shoestring budgets to places. How you achieved that?
We come from the belief that every film has its journey. When we made THAT GIRL IN YELLOW BOOTS and it got into Venice, that was a first learning experience for all of us. We met everyone and generally just took in all this information. Since then we went to every festival and market. It was a 4-5 year journey, we equipped ourselves with information and I believe that is crucial. Sikhya itself means to learn and I think for us that's what it's always about. Today we stand at a juncture where we are now in a position of sharing what we know, with the goal that a lot more Indian films will get out there and break this mould of Indian films being all song and dance.

Why is it significant to present films at coveted film festivals?
More than anything else it gets the film seen and talked about. That's how international sales are generated and buyers know about your film. Today a THE LUNCHBOX continues to do phenomenally well, in addition to the fabulous film it is, also because it was presented at a festival like Cannes and a sales agent like The Match factory ensured that the film got the visibility it deserved, generating that sort of curiosity among buyers. Similarly with GANGS OF WASSEYPUR, PEDDLERS and MONSOON SHOOTOUT.

What has been Sikhya Entertainment's core mantra and what are its future propositions?
At our core, we believe in supporting good cinema, no matter what the language, budget or where it is from. As long as it's a story worth telling and the director has a clear vision of wanting to tell that story, we want to be backing it. Moving forward we have our slate set for 2014-2015 and will make announcements shortly. We will be officially remaking the Indian remake of the blockbuster film THE INTOUCHABLES along with Karan Johar, in addition to three other projects, including Vasan Bala's next.

- By Rachana Sheth, Glamsham Editorial

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