Guneet Monga: Jab We Sex delves deep into topics like polyamory, porn, sexual abuse
Producer Guneet Monga talks about her new audio series, Jab We Sex, and taking India cinema to the global stage
Guneet Monga, the woman behind celebrated films such as Gangs of Wasseypur, The Lunchbox, and Masaaan, is a trailblazer. Her production, Period. The End of Sentence, won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject. In 2018, Variety listed her amid the top 50 women to have created an impact on the global stage.
She is back now with an audio series backed by Audible Suno on sex-education. Titled Jab We Sex, Masti ki Paatshala, the series spans over 14 episodes and looks to demystify sex, one story at a time.
Excerpts from a chat:
What pushed you into exploring an audio series, and on sex education?
I think audio series is an intimate form of storytelling, and the tradition is ingrained in India's fabric. We love our stories. This medium allows us to cross genres and delve into sensitive topics. Here we can thoughtfully develop content without inhibition and judgment, more so than in a visual experience.
This medium has really expanded during the lockdown. The audio medium lends a certain individuality to consumption. Audible Suno allows us to push boundaries with the medium of storytelling.
You seem to have a fascination for topics that are usually considered taboo. There was Period. End of Sentence, and now, Jab We Sex.
As a storyteller, I want to explore the uncharted. Jab We Sex delves deep into the subject and talks about having multiple partners, the effects of pornography, and other subjects like sexual violence and abuse.
It has fourteen episodes featuring more than a hundred interviewees. The stories we have are amazingly diverse, including of the person who has had more than 200 sexual partners, a 75-year-old virgin, BDSM practitioners… We have covered so many hush-hush topics. My favourite is the episode about how parents have the talk with their children. It is also really entertaining.
Your production company is called Sikhya, which means learning. What would you say has been your biggest lesson?
The first was realising the power of showing up. We all have bad days where we don't want to go on. I believe just showing up has led me to a place where I can look back at a decade of work and see its impact. From not being able to move a rock, I now see I have moved mountains: be it making 40+ productions or going to the Oscars.
The second is ‘power asking’. As women, we don't always ask but we should. It goes a long way.
You are listed as one of the producers for Suriya's Soorarai Pottru. How did that happen?
I had the rights to the book, Simply Fly: Deccan Odyssey, which is about Captain Gopinath's life; I partnered with Sudha Kongara on adapting it. It has been a great journey working together with Suriya and Sudha and we are excited to bring the film to a global audience.
India is so vast, and I would love to explore more in different languages. I have been telling around the world that India is just not about Hindi cinema. Fantastic work happens in Tamil, Mayalayam, or Bengali, with great filmmakers all around. We have a global footprint.
How do you see the recognition for Indian cinema in the global scene?
Earlier it was all thought of as belonging to Bollywood, a strange word to club all of us under. Bollywood was restricted to musical dramas and I was taking independent films which were not even close to that image. But now, that has changed. The world knows that Indian art speaks many languages.
How would you say you have evolved?
I am learning and finding my ground. The process is intuitive and is long-drawn. Every idea we pick is a story we need to keep telling beyond its immediate life, I should feel excited about that.
As a storyteller, I do think about impact. I was so glad that we could tell Period to the whole world and make a mark with our content. I am genuinely proud of Jab We Sex as well. I don't say this easily.
There is still a need to have the 'woman producer'/'woman filmmaker' tag. Would you say things are getting better?
While I can see how there could be gender-related issues, the issue I have majorly fought against is ageism. Young people are still not given a chance. There is still an assumption that young people don't know enough. But who knows, maybe digital India will change that for the better.
Feminism is something that we are learning and growing into. It is important to put those conversations out there. There is an awakening, and it is time to celebrate each other. When one woman shines, it opens the door for ten more. I don't mind being called a woman entrepreneur. I feel proud of it, like there were a spotlight on us.