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Guneet Monga: After we won, we saw the impact of storytelling

Guneet Monga: After we won, we saw the impact of storytelling

Guneet Monga: After we won, we saw the impact of storytelling

Guneet Monga: After we won, we saw the impact of storytelling

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  • Monga also speaks about how the power of Indian cinema is starting to show its magic across the globe.
  • History was made at the 95th Academy Awards.
  • The Elephant Whisperers (2022) produced by Guneet Monga and directed by Kartiki Gonsalves, won the Best Documentary Short Film statuette.
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The Elephant Whisperers (2022), a documentary short film produced by Guneet Monga and directed by Kartiki Gonsalves, won the Best Documentary Short Film Oscar at the 95th Academy Awards, making history. The 41-minute film tells the story of Raghu, an orphaned elephant calf who is cared for by mahouts Bomman and Bellie. According to Monga, the Oscar victory has prepared the path for change by bringing attention to the treatment of elephants and by making the world sit up and take note of Indian stories, including her film.

Speaking further about how the triumph improved conditions for elephants in Tamil Nadu, he says, “After our victory, we saw the power of storytelling. The state government stated that each of the 91 elephant keepers in the two camps of the state would receive 1 lakh from the CM Relief Fund as a thank-you gift. Additionally, it provided 9.1 crore to construct mahouts’ cottages, and 5 crore to erect an elephant camp in the Anamalai Tiger Reserve. Bommon and Bellie have also received praise from CM MK Stalin. Monga continues, “We will continue to tell stories that matter and tales that make a difference,” clearly pleased with the impact she has been able to accomplish.

Monga also discusses how Indian cinema’s influence is beginning to be seen around the world. “Bong Joon Ho almost created a pathway for more languages to become well-known on a global scale when he declared in his Oscar speech, “If you break the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more outstanding films. As all movies have the same message, regardless of language, creativity triumphs when audiences around the world can relate to them. Real stories triumph,” she says.

The fact that “two women won it” makes this award extra remarkable in Monga’s eyes. “I’m really thrilled and honored that Kartiki (who made her acting debut with the movie) and I were the only two women representing India at the Oscars this year and that we got the first award for an Indian production,” the actress says. This is significant and sends a message to other women.

“It was breathtaking to witness the live performance of Naatu Naatu (RRR, 2022) and win an Oscar,” Monga enthuses as she shares her excitement at seeing fellow artists making India proud on the Oscars platform. I am extremely honored that SS Rajamouli, MM Keeravani, Chandrabose, Ram Charan, and Jr. NTR could be there for this special occasion.

Monga adds, “I’m really proud of All That Breathes,” acknowledging Shaunak Sen. (2022). Shaunak is one of the most promising Indian directors to watch out for even though his picture didn’t win. The year 2023 at the Oscars was a triumph for India thanks to all three nominations.

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The actor is now anticipating to India. “I’ve been missing my family and cooking at home. Too much time has passed. I want to go back home and spend time with Sunny’s (Sunny Kapoor, my husband’s) parents. Since our December wedding, not much time has been spent with one other. When the documentary was chosen for the shortlist, I was on my honeymoon. We were nominated as soon as I got back. I have not been able to since then.

Although Indian documentaries have been successful in recent years in establishing themselves in film festivals, Monga has frequently stated that it needs more organization, funding, and support. Does she really think that winning an Oscar will make everything better? Monga responds, “Funding for documentaries is not well supported in India. The majority of the time, international finances, TV channels, and productions have helped make documentaries. But, with platforms like Netflix, it has risen and doubled down, making it possible for average audiences to consume and appreciate the art of documentaries. Yet, there is still a ton of work to be done. I sincerely hope that a lot more financing opportunities arise.

If one documentary can make such a significant impact, just think of what else is possible if we properly promote documentary filmmaking in India, the author continues.

The director also discusses how difficult it was for her and the rest of the team to convey a narrative from India’s rural areas to an international stage like the Oscars. “Indeed, the journey of The Elephant Whisperers has been so inspirational, fruitful, and heartwarming—from Mudumalai Tiger Reserve to the Oscars. We had never expected or seen anything like the love we’ve had from audiences throughout the world, hundreds of emails, fan art, and messages from individuals of all ages,” she tells us.

Even before we were nominated, our director Kartiki Gonsalves was in Los Angeles. Our genuine satisfaction is the fact that it struck a chord with so many individuals around the world. She put a lot of effort into advertising the movie and expanding its audience. When I joined her in February, we went to several showings of our documentary short film and met so many amazing people who helped us, loved what we did, and made the movie so unique, she continues.

While Monga acknowledges that the Academy voters ultimately decide whether a film wins or loses, she is incredibly appreciative that they chose this one among the many outstanding entries in the given category. Well, it has been a roller coaster journey, and we ended up there.

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Monga concludes by sending one final message to everyone in the hopes that they may one day win the trophy, represent their nation abroad, and make everyone proud. “Stop waiting for acceptance from others. Nothing is impossible if you keep moving forward. Everyone can do it if I can do it. All of it is in our minds. We wish you many more Oscar wins!

Also Read

Guneet Monga’s The Elephant Whisperers is nominated for the Oscars
Guneet Monga’s The Elephant Whisperers is nominated for the Oscars

The Elephant Whisperer is up for Best Documentary at the 2023 Oscars....

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