The 2023 Oscar award night was a historic moment for Indian cinema, as the documentary short film “The Elephant Whisperers” took home the prestigious award for Best Documentary Short. Directed by Shubhra Prakash, the film tells the story of a group of mahouts (elephant keepers) in India who use their deep connection with these majestic animals to rescue them from abusive situations.
As the winner was announced, the audience cheered and applause, and the team behind the film rushed to the stage to accept the award. The filmmakers, including director Shubhra Prakash and producer Guneet Monga, were visibly emotional as they thanked the Academy and everyone involved in making the film.
For Guneet Monga, who has been a trailblazer in Indian cinema for years, this moment was significant. As a producer, she has been involved in some of India’s most groundbreaking films, including the critically acclaimed “The Lunchbox” and “Masaan.” With “The Elephant Whisperers,” she continues to push boundaries and tell meaningful stories that resonate with audiences worldwide.
In a statement following the win, Monga expressed her gratitude and excitement. “I am overwhelmed with joy and gratitude to receive this award on behalf of our team,” she said. “It is a true honor to be recognized by the Academy for our work and to share the stories of these incredible mahouts and elephants with the world.”
Monga emphasized the importance of telling diverse stories on the world stage. “As filmmakers, it is our responsibility to showcase the beauty and diversity of the world we live in,” she said. “Through ‘The Elephant Whisperers,’ we hoped to shed light on these magnificent animals’ plight and celebrate the mahouts who work tirelessly to protect them. I am so grateful that the Academy has allowed us to do so.”
The win for “The Elephant Whisperers” is a significant moment for Indian cinema, which has long been underrepresented globally. However, with more and more filmmakers like Monga and Prakash telling unique and powerful stories, that is starting to change.
As the night went on, the excitement continued to build, with several other Indian films and filmmakers receiving recognition. Actor Irrfan Khan was posthumously awarded the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his work in the movie “The Song of Scorpions.” In contrast, director Chaitanya Tamhane’s film “The Disciple” was nominated for Best International Feature Film.
For Guneet Monga, this recognition of Indian cinema is long overdue. “We have so many incredible stories to tell and so many talented filmmakers working in India,” she said. “It is time for the world to sit up and notice what we have to offer. As more and more filmmakers from diverse backgrounds are allowed to tell their stories, the world will continue to be enriched and inspired by the beauty and diversity of cinema.