HELLO!: Congratulations on the well-deserved Oscar for The Elephant Whisperers. How magical was that moment?
Guneet Monga: “It’s all been surreal. When we first got the Oscar, I was mindful about the fact that this was the first Academy Award for an Indian production. Dreams do come true. I’ve always manifested it, but when it happens it’s quite awesome. I’m full of gratitude.”
H!: Your thoughts on winning HELLO!’s award for your immense contribution to South Asian cinema...
GM: “Thank you so much for this award! It’s the result of 15-16 years of hard work. My mission in life is to constantly push the boundaries and travel around the world to put our stories on the map, be it through Lunch Box, Masaan or Gangs of Wasseypur. It’s been quite a journey, and I hope to continue to do this on an even larger scale. I feel like I just got started.”
H!: Did you ever imagine The Elephant Whisperers would bring you the kind of accolades it has?
GM: “I knew from day one that it was a special story that needed to be told. It talks about remarriages among older couples, about sufficiency… It has so many themes and even baby elephants! The whole journey has been a blessing, from Kartiki Gonsalves travelling to the South to us winning the Oscar. It was an evolving story shot over five years. I knew the tale would travel as we were also releasing it on Netflix.”
H!: What’s been your biggest learning in all your years of perseverance and struggle?
GM: “Yes, perseverance has been at the core of it. I’d say keep going. ‘Nos’ are a part of the business, so keep moving forward till you find your ‘yes’. There’s no shortcut to success. Rejection is part of the process, and eventually, you’ll find your tribe. Working hard and with integrity is important. Somewhere, I also feel spiritual about it. It’s a blessing to have a dream, to work and push that dream.”
H!: You produced some fine films before The Elephant Whisperers. What attracts you to a script?
GM: “For me, a script has to stir some emotion in me, following conversations with the filmmaker about what they envision. That’s how I discover whether I can be on this journey and add value to the story. It becomes a shared dream, and part of my job is to take my journey forward.”
H!: You also got married last December. How is married life treating you?
GM: “I got married on December 12, 2022, and the Oscar win was on March 12, 2023. It’s all been surreal. I can tell you that right now, I’m living the post-Oscar life, not post-marriage life. Sunny Kapoor is a very kind man. I lived alone for so long, having lost my parents early, and I was an only child. So I’m grateful to have found this family.”
H!: Now that you’re an Oscar winner, do you have a renewed benchmark for success?
GM: “I want to represent my country all over again. I just got started. I want to work on feature films, breake the glass ceiling, make the biggest films and represent Brown content globally. I want to make a ‘Brown Panther’, too! My next film, Kaithal, releases on May 19, and I’m excited for people to watch it.”
This has been adapted for the web from a story originally published in the May-June 2023 issue of HELLO! India. Get our copy of the latest issue right here!