Women were seen as vamps when they started asking for their rights: Guneet Monga
Producer Guneet Monga, 37, has been associated with films such as Gangs of Wasseypur (2012), the iconic Anurag Kashyap crime series about the coal mafias of Dhanbad; The Lunchbox (2013), about two lonely people connected by a lost tiffin; and this year’s Pagglait on Netflix, a layered story about a widow who shakes up her orthodox family while trying to redefine herself.
Also producer of the 2018 Oscar-winning Netflix documentary Period. End of Sentence, Monga discusses changes she’s seen in the industry, changes she’d like to see, how she picks her projects.
Do you pick films because of the female protagonist’s character arc?
I get this question a lot and to be frank, now that I look back, I realise that my slate has always had strong women characters. As a producer, I don’t believe in limiting oneself to certain specific types of stories. The film should be wholesome, and that has been my constant pursuit. Dasvidaniya was an ode to life, so was The Lunchbox. Zubaan was about finding one’s true calling while Tigers was the hard-hitting story of a whistleblower who stood up against an evil baby-formula maker whose product kills hundreds of children. I feel (Monga’s production house) Sikhya Entertainment has managed to successfully present various formats and kinds of stories, each very different from the other.
Do you think the old-school vamps served a larger purpose regarding how we saw female characters on screen?
That’s an interesting observation! Women were seen as vamps the moment they started asking for their basic rights. Women embracing their sexuality, having even a tinge of individualism, was looked down upon. From the ’50s until now, we have come a long way but we still do have a very long road ahead. Men or women, as filmmakers it is our duty to ensure characters are not just tools in the limited story of that specific film, but also have their own individual arc.
As a producer what do you think is next for the women on screen? What should we be aiming for?
I feel it is an upward journey for the women in cinema both on and off-screen. Makers, as well as the audience, are aware of gender bias, class politics, and various other themes that have to be dealt objectively and with immense sensitivity.