Guneet Monga, who was among the first Indian producers to be inducted in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2018 and subsequently won the 2019 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject for Period. End of Sentence, is lined up for another honour at the Oscars (Academy Awards).
The Elephant Whisperers, which has been co-produced by her, has also been nominated for the Best Documentary Short Subject. The awards will take place on March 12 at Dolby Theatre, Hollywood in Los Angeles. The movie faces competition from Haulout, How Do You Measure A Year?, The Martha Mitchell Effect and Stranger At The Gate.
Monga was also a co-producer for Period. End of Sentence, which dealt with the stigma attached to menstruation.
The Elephant Whisperers, on the other hand, follows the story of Bomman and Bellie, a couple hailing from south India who take care of an orphaned baby elephant named Raghu. Directed by Kartiki Gonsalves, The Elephant Whisperers chronicles human bond with the animal world.
In an exclusive chat with Patriot, Guneet takes us through the journey of the latest movie that has landed her in Hollywood.
“This film was ideated by Kartiki Gonsalves. She discovered the story of Baman, Bellie and the elephants. Post that, she made a little trailer and went to the Netflix. Then the Netflix team reached out to me. At that time, I had just finished Period. End of Sentence,” she says.
“I was blown away by the visual imagery and Kartiki’s work. Here’s a female debut director who’s so passionate about this and I really wanted to support her and her journey. It’s been a dream run working with Netflix, understanding things from Kartiki’s perspective and learning so much about the jungle.”
Sharing her favourite bit from the project Guneet says, “Every part is my favourite but I really loved some portions. Bellie has lost her daughter and she see her lost child in Raghu. Similarly, for Raghu, Baman and Bellie are family. It’s very beautiful to see how this very emotional equation is captured by Kartiki and the team.”
“It’s incredible! Firstly, India has some amazing film-makers with respect to the genre. I think this is just the start and the documentary film-makers will make the country proud. We already saw this with Period. The End of Sentence. We have great potential and I am sure there’s so much more.”
It has been more than three and a half years since the producer began collaborating with Netflix and she is extremely grateful for the support.
She agrees that Netflix’s presence in 190 countries makes it really impactful. The documentary being live and viewed by millions of people across the globe itself results in publicity.
When nominations were announced, her reaction surfaced on internet in the form of a video. Guneet was seen jumping in joy and happiness. It was indeed a proud moment for everyone as the nomination in itself is a big deal.
When asked about how she exactly felt, the producer poured her heart out.
“It was just surreal. We are overwhelmed and grateful. It (the feeling) is possibly the most difficult thing to put it into words.”
Talking about Kartiki’s vision of the project, she explains, “Kartiki is a powerhouse. When she reached out to me along with Netflix’s documentary team, I could already see the project basking in success. I knew from the day I heard the story that I wanted to be part of it. Kartiki is brought up near Madhumalai reserves. She has woven this project all by herself, be it capturing the footages, writing or researching. She is a dynamic personality. Also, how can one say no to baby elephant? Moreover, I feel so happy to be with her in this beautiful journey as I personally feel that we need to push our female debutant filmmakers.”
Guneet also stresses that this project is really refreshing at a time when we see animal cruelty and certain species dying around us. A story like this highlights the beauty of man and animals living together peacefully. It’s highly impressive and moving. This 40-minute documentary captures nature, human-animal equation and an overwhelming emotion that binds us all together on this planet.
It is in recent past that we have been seeing documentaries getting the kind of response and recognition that should have been given way earlier.
Guneet explains the reason, “It is because of streaming platforms such as Netflix that the audience is able to see these documentaries. The reach is now larger than earlier times. This accessibility has, in turn changed the status quo of documentary film-making. It has led to shift in perspectives that documentaries can also push the envelope and be incredible.”
She says that documentary films are unlike the planned works of fiction.
“I strongly feel that documentaries are all about observation. There’s no script. It’s not fiction that everything is on a paper and actors have to act. A documentary is everything unplanned. Therefore, it requires more patience than fiction,” she says.
Curious to know what happens after the nominations and what a producer is supposed to do, Guneet answers, “We are lucky that we have Netflix by our side. They have wonderful publicists from around the world. Netflix’s viewership is another plus point. We are very excited right now and hope we win the award.”