PeepingMoon Exclusive: The Elephant Whisperers is Tamil, All That Breathes is Hindi & RRR is Telugu, it's the best way to represent India's diversity at Oscars 2023- Guneet Monga


Heartbeats are racing as we're inching closer to the prestigious 95th Academy Awards. It will be held in the US on March 12 and Indians can watch it live on Monday at 5.30 am. All eyes are on the ceremony as multiple Indian projects have been nominated in key categories. SS Rajamouli's RRR bagged a nomination in the Best Original Song category for Naatu Naatu whereas Guneet Monga-produced The Elephant Whisperers has been nominated in the Best Documentary Short Film category. Shaunak Sen's All That Breathes will compete in the Best Documentary Feature Film category.

Ahead of the Oscars 2023 ceremony, PeepingMoon spoke to Guneet who backed debutante filmmaker Kartiki Gonsalves' short film The Elephant Whisperers. Talking about the film, the veteran producer shared the idea behind the story and how it is relevant in today's scenario. "The idea of The Elephant Whisperers came from Kartiki Gonsalves. I supported her in her filmmaking. The elephant reserve is just 30 minutes from her home in Ooty. She’s a first-time filmmaker. The story of Bomman and Bellie was brought to me by Kartiki." 

Recommended Read: Oscars 2023: Beside RRR’s Naatu Naatu, Indian documentaries All That Breathes and The Elephant Whisperers bag nominations at 95th Academy Awards; full list out

She added, "The Elephant Whisperers talks about conservation, coming together of the animal world and the human world. It talks about sufficiency. Bellie says an important thing in the film that whatever the jungle has to offer is sufficient for livelihood. We live in a world of overconsumption. Through the film, we're also talking about the elephant conversation. We're making an effort to save elephants and applaud the efforts of caretakers like Bomman and Bellie in the Mudumalai National Park. In The Elephant Whisperers, we also lean into climate change and where the world is going. When people say it is either wildlife or mankind, we feel there's a way between that forms a sacred bond between these two worlds. 

When asked whether the Oscar nomination puts any pressure on her for the next projects, Guneet promptly answered, "No, I am not somebody who takes such pressure. It is a big thing to be nominated too. We don't have control over victory or loss then why bother about it? I would prefer putting in that effort in telling more stories and bringing them out to the world."

Guneet also shared that she hopes The Elephant Whisperers encourages more filmmakers to tell their stories to the world through cinema and documentaries. "If The Elephant Whisperers wins, it will be like creating history. Being nominated is a big deal and I hope it inspires more and more people. I am proud to be able to represent the stories of the nation." She believes with OTT giants like Netflix and Prime Video stepping into the picture, "it is becoming more global and there is more scope for independent filmmakers to tell their stories. There’s more opportunity in the market."

With RRR and All That Breathes nominated with The Elephant Whisperer, Guneet is of the opinion that, "The year is about diversity which is at its best. The Elephant Whisperers is a Tamil documentary, All That Breathes is in Hindi whereas RRR in made in Telugu. At least the world will now know that we are a diverse nation. We have multiple beautiful cinema languages too. This is the best way to represent a country."

When asked about female filmmakers getting more chances in the film industry, she stated, "There’s still a lot of work to be done. There are still less than 5% female filmmakers. I hope more female filmmakers come forward. This is Kartiki’s debut film and I am so proud of it. The country should be proud of it. Women need more chances and money being put behind them."

Was Guneet ever discriminated for her gender early in her career? "As an independent filmmaker, I started working at a young age. I felt discriminated due to my age and not gender. I produced my first film, Say Salaam India (2007) when I was 21. I made Dasvidaniya when I was around 23. That Girl in Yellow Boots came when I was almost 24 and at 26, I backed Gangs of Wasseypur. At that time, I felt I had to be older to be taken seriously. That's the only time I felt discriminated and not now," she told while signing off.

Taking us inside the lush green Mudumalai National Park, the 40-minute-long film tells the story of Bomman and Bellie who devote their lives to care for an orphaned baby elephant named Raghu. The film currently streaming on Netflix highlights the importance of the environment where man and the wild can co-exist happily.