Television

GuneetMonga , opportunities & innovation with OPPO

The film maker believes in doing things out of the ordinary just like the brands she is associated

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MUMBAI: Academy award winner and BAFTA nominee, GuneetMonga needs no introduction. An ace producer, she has been assiociated with films like The Lunchbox, Masaan, Gangs of Wasseypur, What Will People Say and Period. End of Sentence. However, her journey to the top has not been that simple. 

Western Mumbai’s ever bustling suburb, Versova, is home to several production houses, casting companies, and wannabe stars. At the edge of the sea, the borough  commands high rentals  and harbours even higher hopes for wannabes, perfectly epitomising the Mumbai film industry.
 
On one side of the main road, the place is crowded with luxury high-rises of  actors and filmmakers and on the opposite side are rows of small cottages, shops, offices, and even gourmet restaurants and cafés. Adjoining the array of small cafés is the barely detectable office of Sikhya Entertainment, the company founded by Guneet Monga and the CEO of which she currently is. .

At 36, Guneet Monga has emerged as one of India’s most recognised producers, who makes strides by refusing to stick to the conventional Bollywood formula. She is currently post-producing two of her projects SooraraiPottru and Pagglait and is looking forward to make a film set in space by next year. 

Busy as she is, Monga took time to be part of a promotional and marketing campaign with global smart device brand Oppo with the theme of  #GoBeyondBoundaries around the new phone model Reno4Pro. It showcases her journey of going beyond the boundaries and leveraging technology to create a difference through her movie production business.Oppo used her as their icon because it wants consumers to go beyond their comfort zone to find their true calling and achieve true greatness just like Guneet has done and just like the brand has done with its latest device Reno4Pro. The phone maker hopes that users will find a holistic experience with the Reno4Pro which will also allow them to” sense the infinite” possibilities of expressing themselves.

Indiantelevision.com’s Shikha Singh got into a tete a tete with Guneet  to understand what's driving her these days and her relationship with Oppo.. Excerpts from the interview: 

How have you pushed boundaries in your career to achieve what you have today?

After working for over a decade making movies, what I have realised is that filmmaking is a long-drawn process which might take over a year or two, hence it is very important for me to show up every day, no matter what. The journey of a film from its inception to release is long and full of challenges, so we must make sure that we put our best foot forward.

Starting early in my life was testing. But, now in hindsight, I feel very fortunate to have started out young, as it has offered different perspectives and shaped me to make balanced business decisions. 

Having a humble beginning from Delhi, it has only been my passion and perseverance for telling stories that has brought me this far. I have just started out, so any celebration feels premature, I have many dreams yet to fulfil and we have a long way to go from here. I’m excited for the journey!

I believe success lies outside the comfort zone. It's a sum total of finding opportunities, as small as they may seem, and stringing them together with a larger vision.

How does the brand Oppo relate to you?

Oppo, has innovation at its core and has continuously believed in pushing boundaries. I identify with their brand values and have always embodied the same values in my work. With the focus of building a stronger resonance with the consumers Oppo’s latest campaign showcases how the journey to greatness starts by breaking free from the pre-existing notions and stepping out of their comfort zone. Leading the way, Oppo’s #GoBeyondBoundaries campaign further aims to empower and inspire the people of India to push limits and sense the infinite possibilities like India's first Oppo Reno4 Pro. 

The campaign had a seamless narrative combining the product and the philosophy, which instantly connected with me. The way it celebrates ambition of pushing the boundaries and making a personal connection was very well done. Its message of getting out of your comfort zone and reaching out to people to form a deeper connection is what I would like to tell today’s youth as well — to keep striving and continue to reach out will take you on a road less travelled and help you shape your own unique journey.

Oppo as a brand has always celebrated innovation and believed in pushing the boundaries. These philosophies are something I deeply apply in my own way of living and working as well. I have strived to break the stereotype in the world of movies, and Oppo is doing the same with their technology. Giving the consumers a world of endless opportunities.

Sikhya Entertainment has films such as Gangs of Wasseypur, Peddlers, The Lunchbox, Masaan and Zubaan to its credit. What is your next move?

We have two feature films in post-production stage - Suriya starrer SooraraiPottru and Sanya Malhotra starrer Pagglait. Over the last year, we have expanded across platforms. Apart from features, we have also released podcasts for Audible Suno.  My dream project is to make a film set in space and I aspire to make it next year. This one will be for all the girls who dream!

Do you think it is a great time for independent cinema? Also, what are the challenges for independent content creators.

I think it is a great time for content creators- independent, mainstream, digital, you name any medium or scale. Audience base has expanded and so has consumer appetite for different content. With OTT and deeper data/internet penetration, viewers are exposed to an array of content. This generates more avenues for content creators. These times are certainly exciting for independent movie makers as their work is travelling faster and farther. 

Independent content creators mainly faced challenges due to lack of a strong platform to not just present their work but also market it. With OTT players expanding, that has changed a little. However, the new challenge is to sustain the quality of what they are offering. Audiences have more choices than ever and it is important to be able to get them hooked and sustain their attention. There is always something better waiting to attract the viewer and it is just a click away.

Please Read More: Indian content creators must find out right stories to reach global audiences

How OTT has opened new avenues for directors, producers or content creators? How has the opportunity increased by the launch of OTT?

Yes, absolutely. As we now have high speed internet in most parts of the country, we have seen an explosion in creators and viewers. They are already using various platforms like Youtube, Instagram etc. in much higher numbers now. Platforms have grown more than 500 per cent  + in the past couple of years in India. I do feel It will only further scale higher from here. There is also an incredible growth in OTTs and that leads to a direct need for more content. It's definitely an exciting time for content creators.  A number of production houses today are partnering with each other or with OTT platforms to co-create content, jointly gaining from the expertise that each player brings to the table.

For weeks now, films have been bearing the brunt of cinema complex/hall closures. As the lights are going out on live events, shoots and movie premiers, the only silver lining amidst all this is the rise of the popularity of OTT. The halting of productions may have dried up the content line, but streaming hasn’t stopped via the OTT platforms across the country. At the same time, ad-spends have gone down significantly due to a knock-on effect of the recessionary impact on financial services, e-commerce and automotive industries.

You have gone to great extent from raising money to crowd-funding and self-financing to bring the right content on TV screens? It is assumed that producers are always rich, but what about creative producers who are working for the right content.

To me, stories drive those conversations and convictions that lead to innovative ways to generate revenue.  In the process, the idea is to never lose sight of the story we all set out to tell in the first place. To answer your question & given the current scenario, we would see further democratization of this business, which in turn empowers my approach to film making.

As a producer, I have always followed my gut. Making a film takes a year or two and one has to continue to feel it will stand the test of time and stay relevant when it does release.

I am grateful that I have been able to build a solid business with making independent films that have travelled globally. We now have a much wider audience base to cater to. I don’t think anyone can ever say what will work or not, it’s always an intuition that you follow and allow it to grow over a period of time.

Please Read More: Oscar-winning executive producer Guneet Monga joins MUBI India as content advisor

Please tell us about your upcoming anthology ZindagiInshort?

Earlier this year we released Zindagi In Short, an anthology of 7 short films, which was a direct-to-OTT release in collaboration with Flipkart Video. The short films are helmed by TahiraKashyapKhurrana, PunarvasuNaik, Vijayeta Kumar, Rakesh Sain, GautamGovind Sharma, SmrutikaPanigrahi and Vinay Chhawal.

They are one of the first start-up companies in India and incubated many young engineers and business graduates to work in an e-commerce company and with ZindagiinShort, they are helping a young brigade of talented directors to fly in the film industry.I am extremely excited and thrilled that, as producers, Flipkart and I can provide a platform for the aspiring filmmakers. This was a very inspired and charged space where everyone came in and worked. The upcoming Flipkart Original also stars Deepak Dobriyal, SwaroopSampat, Shishir Sharma, Aisha Ahmed, Rima Kallingal, IshaTalwar and Manjot Singh.

Being India’s first woman to win an academy award, what would be your advice to the youth of India be, so that they can also go beyond boundaries and achieve more in life?

I’ve always been very ambitious and have used films as a platform for exchange of ideas and encourage free spirit. In the ten years that I have been a producer I have faced plenty of challenges, from not being taken seriously in an industry. I realised my line of work needs a risk-taking nature and I took some bold steps early on. I believe it’s important to chase and follow your dreams and never give up hope and really see through when you believe in. All I’d tell another young woman starting off as producers is to show up every day and keep working. Keep believing.
 

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