Guneet Monga: ‘I don’t think films can change the world but they can at least start a conversation’
Academy Award winner Guneet Monga is happy with how diverse the Oscars were this year with South Korean film Parasite winning the Best Film. Keeping up with the mood, she has launched one of the first genre diverse anthology of seven films, Zindagi inShort as the debut content on shopping website Filpkart.
The seven bittersweet ‘slice-of-life’ short films, made under the banner of Guneet’s production house, Sikhya Entertainment and Flipkart, have been directed and performed by some of the notable names such as Neena Gupta, Divya Dutta, Sanjay Kapoor and many more. Guneet cannot be more proud of her latest outing and says, “Short films is a medium where you work with new filmmakers and it’s amazing to see Neena Gupta, Divya Dutta and Sanjay Kapoor to work with us. All of them have done a very good job and are very different from each other. All are of just 10-15 minutes which take you to a whole spectrum of emotions.”
Watch Zindagi inShort trailer
The films are based on themes such as standing up for yourself when it’s the hardest to do so, online romance, the innocence of childhood, the confusion of old age, the construct of being loved in a marriage, infidelity and a woman owning her role in the family. While Tahira Kashyap directed Neena Gupta starrer Pinni is making much noise on social media, there are other interesting films such as Thappad, (which shares its name with Taapsee Pannu’s upcoming film), Chhaju Ke Dahi Bhalle, Nano So Phobia, Sunny Side Upar, Swaaha, Pinni, Sleeping Partner besides others.
Enquired about her criteria for short-listing 7 films, two of which have been shot on an iPhone, she says, “I was looking for relatable content because largely the audience is from Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities. These are very small, beautiful stories. I am very excited as this is Flipkart’s first piece of content and for them to take a chance with first time directors is incredible.”
But she agrees that cinema is yet to bring about a major change in society. The filmmaker, who was named among top 12 women achievers in the Global Entertainment industry by The Hollywood Reporter, says “I don’t think films can change the world but they can at least start a conversation. From Period End of Sentence, The Lunchbox to Masaan, they start a conversation. Everyone have a mobile these days – it’s like an extension of our body. It’s very interesting to see how people consume everything on mobile across cities and towns. Why we should not step up and make content for the mobile!”
Prakash Sikaria, Vice-President of Growth and Monetisation at Flipkart, also adds, “With Zindagi inShort, we are fulfilling people’s demand for powerful stories that can be consumed on their smartphones while they are on the move. The seven bittersweet ‘slice-of-life’ films are perfect for viewers who are looking for diverse short form content. We are very excited to see how people receive these films.”
Guneet recently attended the Filmfare Awards in Assam where she was seen rooting for Gully Boy. The film went on to dominate the event by winning in all major categories, including Best Actor (male and female) for Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt. Guneet, whose Period. End of Sentence won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject, is content with Gully Boy being chosen as India’s official entry for Foreign Film at Oscars. Claiming that she strongly feels for the film, she said, “Gully Boy is the most genius film to come out of India. Look at the craft of it – from how it is shot to the music to the production design. It’s our true story – about two boys called Divine and Naezy from Dharavi going all the way to becoming successful rappers. The film is made by one of the brilliant filmmakers in the country – it’s the best film to represent India. It went very far in the promotions also.”
Asked about her reaction to no representation of women filmmakers at the Oscars, she said, “I think there were some amazing films by female filmmakers, like Little Women. Maybe we need to keep doing more. But look at diversity – Parasite, a Korean film won the Best Film.”
Guneet is currently working on her next project, titled Pagglait. The film co-produced by Ekta Kapoor has Sanya Malhotra in the lead role and is currently under editing. Enquire her more about the pet project and she lights up, “Jab ladki log ko akal aati hai, tab duniya unhe pagglait hi bolti hai.”
Pagglait is the story of a young girl navigating her emotions while the world is trying to stereotype her. “This happens a lot with me, everyone wants to put you in a box. Everyone wants to tell you how to behave, you must not put people and human emotions in a box. Everything doesn’t need to have a prototype. It’s totally a fun film and a fun take on situations in life,” she says.
Guneet, who has delivered films such as That Girl in Yellow Boots and Rang Rasiya, is happy the way Me Too movement has come a long way in India. “It has empowered a lot of young girls who are joining the industry. Everyone knows they have Twitter. Even all the opportunists know that a 22-year-old girl will put it up on Twitter so they better behave themselves. Things cannot happen overnight but the impact of the movement is huge. People know that they are empowered and can talk. They know they will get support if they open up. Now there are checks being put in every company and it’s a big step forward. Atleast people are having a conversation how we can make the workplace safer. Earlier, people used to take this for granted.”
However, she agrees that things are yet to change for those named during the movement. “The system is very difficult to navigate. Even putting an FIR is not easy. But today, even you put something on Twitter, people read it. There is now more unity among women. People say there is so much competition in the field but it’s not, we are fixing each other’s crown.”
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