Guneet Monga and acknowledging world’s underlying goodness

For Academy Award winning producer, Guneet Monga, who recently acquired the rights to make author Khushwant Singh’s book ‘Maharaja in Denims’ into a film, it has been a journey back to the roots. “I have forever been fascinated by Maharaja Ranjit Singh and his life. Interestingly, the book intertwines that era with contemporary times.”

Adding that it was a great experience to learn more about Punjab through the journey of this book, she says, “Somewhere, that state means a lot in my life. Being a Sikh myself, who grew up knowing and romanticing Punjab, I am glad I was able to read it, connect with the author and jam with him on the book.”

Founder of Sikhya Entertainment, that has produced some notable films including ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ – Part 1 and 2, ‘Peddlers’, ‘The Lunchbox’, ‘Masaan’ and ‘Zubaan’, Guneet, excited about ‘Soorarai Pottru’ and ‘Pagglait’, both of which are in post production stage says that the lockdown has given her time to pause. “I am glad I don’t have to run around for any meetings now. It is a new look at life where everyone is connecting online. I have a wonderful team that has been reading a lot of material. Also, I have also used this time to catch up on a lot of shows and movies online. A few more announcements are brewing, which shall be out soon.”

Talking about short films coming of age, the producer says that it is heartening to see that they have found a space, and now there were even awards for them. “I am personally very excited about what we were able to do with ‘Plus Minus’ that won the Filmfare. We recently made many shorts with Flipkart. Short films have been able to open floodgates of opportunities for new directors and writers.”

Stressing that documentaries too were finding a place in the audiences’ sensibilities, Guneet, who produced the Academy Award winning ‘Period. End of Sentence’ cites the example of Indian ‘Matchmaking’, a docu-series being aired on Netflix. “The whole world is talking about it. The format is that of a follow- doc. The director, Smriti Mundhra has also done a beautiful docu called ‘A Suitable Girl’. I have always been saying that documentaries will break out even faster than fiction and we see that happening with ‘Indian Matchmaking’ right now. They already enjoy a lot of momentum globally, and it’s going to pick up here too.”

The producer feels that keeping in mind the mood in face of the global pandemic, content creators understand that the same calls for more empathy and equality. “I would always go for relatable stories that remind people of the underlying goodness in the world,” she adds.

For someone who does not believe in bifurcating or restricting content on the basis of screen size, digital platforms continue to excite writers and filmmakers. “OTT still remains a much more open platform. Remember, a good story always stands out.”

Optimistic about theatres doing brisk business again, Guneet cites statistics of cinemas reopening across the globe and the numbers showing a positive sign. “South Korea had a weekend which saw over half million people going to the cinemas, while France saw over 1 million spectators at the box office in the past week. Reports show that Chinese box-office had 1.15 million footfalls on July 27, raking nearly $4.65 million, with mostly older movies getting re-released. If we follow all the necessary precautions, then we’re certain to see a positive sign for cinemas in India.”

The producer, who worked with Anurag Kashyap films for five years, starting at the age of 24, says that the time spent with her mentor will always remain special and fulfilling. “I learnt everything I know there. I could experiment so much, do films with co-production structures and there was this liberty of putting content together… My biggest takeaway from Anurag is to keep working. Even in the face of not being able to to do a particular thing or being held back for some reason — just keep at it. Everything eventually adds up. Just show up every morning. The connection with Anurag was very deep owing to the challenges we faced.”