The announcement of the 91st Academy Awards on Tuesday evening happened to be big news for the country. 'Period. End of Sentence', a film set in India is now in contention for an Oscar for Best Documentary (Short Subject).
The 25-minute long film is based on the subject of menstrual hygiene in India and has been directed by Iranian-American filmmaker Rayka Zehtabchi.
We exclusively got into a conversation with the film's co-producer Guneet Monga (Monga's Sikhya Entertainment has backed films like The Lunchbox and Masaan). Guneet discussed various aspects of being a producer and the filming process.
© Guneet Monga
How does it feel like to be amongst the top five nominees of the Documentary Short Subject?
It's a massive honour. It's a huge honour to be acknowledged by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. I don't know how to express it in words. It feels very humbling and I am very grateful that our friend has reached this level and I hope the whole world can watch it. I am very excited, happy and gratified more than anything.
Just when a mainstream Bollywood film titled 'Padman' was made, what inspired you and your team to chose the film's theme based on menstrual hygiene?
The more we speak about it, it is less. This topic should have a hundred more movies on it. Periods are a taboo. I think 'Padman' did a big thing about making the conversation normal. More power to more people doing this and I think a lot more needs to be done. When you will see the film you will get to know that people still don't freely talk about it and there is shame attached to it. This is a normal process for any woman.
© Columbia Pictures
This was a story that was moving and was chosen by the girls in LA who wanted to bring it forth. A few schoolgirls in LA aged 12 to 14, read an article that in India, girls don't get to go to school because of periods and also drop out of schools. They started with Yogathon and other campaigns to raise money for buying a pad machine. They then raised $40,000 to be able to make a movie. They hired Rayka to direct the movie. The whole team got ready to shoot this in India. And it was through one of their parents, who got in touch with me. That's how I became a producer on the film.
I feel that there should be a hundred more movies on this subject. We are in no comparison with 'Padman', as the film did a great job in lifting the taboo. We are a small film, a 25 minute documentary with girls and their point of view.
What's your take on creating and putting out stories with women in the centre?
There should be more films/ documentaries to put girls up in the centre of the storytelling. We need to get acknowledged across the world through every storytelling medium. Given that we are half the world and we also run the world.
You have also remained a BAFTA nominee and became one of the first Indian producers to join the producer branch of the Academy. Would you foster and root for more roles/ work opportunities for the Indians?
Indians/Asians would love to have their stories told to the rest of the world. We tell our stories to the rest of the world. That's the world we come from and these are the stories we are capable of telling in hope to resonate with other people.
What is the most challenging part when it comes to connecting Indian films with international buyers?
The challenge comes with the way the deals are structured within India. This kind of limits the international buyers to be a part of it.
Any upcoming projects you are working on?
I am doing a lot of cool stuff, especially women stories. I am also starting my own YouTube channel by women for women, it is called ReDo.
'Period. End of Sentence' is a short film, which follows girls and women in Hapur in Uttar Pradesh and their experience with the installation of a pad machine in the village.
The documentary highlights the fight by the rural women against the deeply rooted stigma of menstruation.