Over the years, producer Guneet Monga has established a reputation for being the 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 capital’s second-highest civilian French honor.
“It was a complete surprise, it blew me away. I felt like my life was born and brought up in Delhi, starting in 2004 as an intern with a French and German film called Valley of Flowers. And then going to Cannes Film Festival with many of my films like Gangs of Wasseypur, Peddlers, The Lunchbox, Monsoon Shootout and Masaan. It is amazing for the French Embassy and the French Institute to accept their work and give me this honor. It is very polite.
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 came her way.
“I think I always felt discriminated against for ages, just being too young. When I started I used to think back that maybe I should turn my hair white or I should wear a sari and I prayed to put on glasses. I was 26 years old when I formed Gangs of Wasseypur, now I am 37. At the time I used to take my projects in my 40s seriously. I have faced ageism but Certainly not gender discrimination.
Looking back, Monga says that the highlight of her career has been The Lunchbox (2013), starring Irrfan, Nimrat Kaur and Nawazuddin Siddiqui.
“It was the first co-production of India and France. The treaty between India and France was signed in 1985 and the lunchbox was the first to use that treaty in 2012.
The producer also said that in his time in the industry, he has seen a sea of change in the Indian cinema sector.
“I have definitely seen Indian independent cinema coming of age. From going to festivals to being forbidden it is very good and a privilege. Watching my visit to the Oscar-winning documentary short film period with Saas Salaam India (2007), Dasavidaniya (2008). End of sentence. Sorarai Potru (2019) and Paglit from (now), I can say that this has been the decade of independent cinema. I have worked on the periphery of Bollywood and have been able to create my own little universe, ”she concludes.