With money borrowed from a neighbour, Guneet Monga went on to co-own a production company with Anurag Kashyap

Starting off wanting to be a myriad of things — a DJ, a car rally enthusiast, an insurance agent at Tata AIG — by 18, the young film buff in Guneet Monga was fascinated as she watched her friend’s mother, Anureeta Saigal, work on production for international films. She interned with Saigal and, over time, realised that this was probably what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.

Monga took her skills of persuasion to Mumbai and made Say Salaam India in 2007 with director Subhash Kapoor under the banner of her first production company Speaking Tree Films, which she started with partner Harish Amin. Unfortunately for Monga, all the programming heads of every cinema refused to screen the film. He left her line producer job and made a plan to recover the money. “I allowed 1,000 students per screening and booked theatres for them,” she explains. Within eight months, the money was recovered and Monga came back to making films but under her own banner, Sikhya Entertainment.

She got her big break with Balaji Telefilms where she worked on Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai.  Her boss and mentor, Anurag Kashyap, took on board Monga. They went on to make blockbuster films. Within two years, she co-owned the company.

Disruption came in the form of 2012’s gangster saga Gangs of Wasseypur. Released in two parts, the movie went on to make ₹230 million and was an instant cult hit. It was also released at the Cannes Film Festival that year along with Monga’s pet project Peddlers, a crowd-sourced film, which has not been released in India till date — a fact that Monga admits remains a thorn in her side.

Monga was also part of The Lunchbox team, a movie that earned acclaim, money from French (ASAP Films) and German (ROH Films) production houses, and a BAFTA nomination in the ‘film not in the English language’ category. The blinding success of The Lunchbox, however, left Monga feeling depressed and disillusioned instead of uplifted and elated.

Her silver-tinted hair, now growing back slowly, shines as she admits that she has been fearless. She continues to believe that her fearlessness, her ability to dream and her optimism have made her as successful as she is today. She has not read any self-help books, but she does believe in the power of the universe. “I believe that if you put something out there, it will manifest itself into something bigger. There is a difference between faith and blind faith. If you really love what you do, there is nothing stopping you. Even if, traditionally, investment is not available for your film, you can release it. There is an audience for everything. Whoever says there is not an audience for your story is lying.”

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