Elle Mentors

The journey of indie cinema’s most legit crusader has all the makings of a blockbuster

“I wasn’t taken seriously because I was young," says Guneet Monga

It’s hard to keep a straight face when film producer Guneet Monga is sharing with you the outlandish list of odd jobs she had pursued before she found her way to Mumbai (from Delhi). Like many of us plebs, she, too, stumbled upon several labels before finding her play. She worked as a certified insurance agent. She sold cheese as a 16-year-old. During college, she “edited videos, coordinated extras, sold stuff and anchored events”. “I also worked with Delhi Times; I was writing about beauty. I was a DJ too—one of Delhi’s only two female DJs. I used to get shit tons of money. It was fun.”

Yes, the one-woman-army who brought together the master teams behind landmark films such as Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs Of Wasseypur (2012), Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox (2013), Shlok Sharma’s Haraamkhor (2015) and Neeraj Ghaywan’s Masaan (2015), used to sell cheese.

Nonetheless, the 33-year-old has enjoyed the long and arduous route to the industry and has proudly rewritten chunks of the underdog story along the way. Ten years in production (one of her first productions, a film called Salaam India, released in 2007), she’s learnt a thing or four about life and never standing down:

Never stop asking questions

“I faced age challenges. I never even thought about women challenges. In retrospect, maybe people didn’t open up, but I didn’t care. I kept asking questions, doing what I needed to do. I kept working. I was written off because I was young. I was not taken seriously in a room because I was young. I was a 27-year-old producing Gangs Of Wasseypur. So, I would colour my hair white and wear saris. I always found a way to keep going.”

It’s okay to be insecure

“There is no such thing as a certain ‘school of cinema’. The only thing is that people grow up. That growing up for me happened with Anurag Kashyap. My universe opened up. I was very insecure earlier. I hadn’t watched enough [films]. I didn’t know enough. But he always said it’s fine—you don’t have to see everything, you don’t have to know everything. You just have to know what you have to do.”

Don’t let anyone tell you production is for men (only)

“I think women are great at production, because it is a nurturing job. Production is like setting up a city and then dismantling it. You run with the whole city. It becomes a family and everybody’s life matters. It is a logistical role, which anyone can do. There is no difference between a man and a woman. In fact, women are probably better at it. That’s why so many producers around the world are women.”

No job is a small job

“My mum was a homemaker. I come from a very, very humble family. She taught tuitions and paid for my education. My dad was in property. When I started out, all I knew was that I just wanted to buy them a house. I wanted to be more useful, to be able to save enough money. I wanted to do more. So, I did a lot of random odd jobs. I did what needed to be done.”