As expected, The Elephant Whisperer swept the Oscars. Guneet Monga, the film’s producer, discusses her troubled upbringing, including the time she “sold cheese on the streets.”
As The Elephant Whisperers, directed by Kartiki Gonsalves and produced by Guneet Monga, takes home the Oscar for Best Documentary Short Film at this year’s 95th Academy Awards, it is a momentous occasion for the nation. Naatu Naatu, performed by MM Keervani and Chandrabose, was the first Indian song in a Telugu production to win an Academy Award for ‘Best Original Song.’ This was a double whammy for the country.
Guneet Monga revealed in an interview with Humans of Bombay that her life up to this point hasn’t been easy. What did she say? “I’ve been living on the hopes and dreams of others. My family is a middle class Punjabi family from Delhi, where I spent my formative years. We smiled and laughed in front of the world, but our private lives were a different story. A single room in a large house was allotted to me and my family. My mother was repressed as a result of sibling rivalry over the family’s property. They were abusive to her. At one point, the argument escalated to the point where they attempted to burn her alive; my father called the police, grabbed my brother and me, and took us away.”
She continued by saying that she had to pitch in around the house as early as her teenage years. She continued, “When I was 16, I started working and going to school at the same time. I did everything from selling cheese on the street to being an announcer at PVR to being a DJ to being an anchor. After starting to visit Mumbai for film work during my college years. From a coordinating role, I was promoted to the role of production manager. I would give my entire salary to my parents so that we could fulfil our dream.”
In addition, Guneet shared how devastating it was to lose both of her parents so soon after each other. Surprised, she upped stakes and relocated to Mumbai, where she has since become completely absorbed in her career. As she put it, “Every movie was an ordeal. Globalization, crowdsourcing, and sales: all things I absolutely adored doing. I was hoping for a “you did well” or “proud of you” from my parents. I’ll never forget how my dad sold his gold kadaa so I could go on my first school trip to the United States; he was determined to give me the opportunity to travel the world, no matter how difficult it would be for our family.”