The Elephant Whisperers producer Guneet Monga on her Oscars speech being cut off: 'This was India's moment taken away'

The Elephant Whisperers producer Guneet Monga has said that her speech being cut off at the Oscars left her shocked and disheartened.

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The Elephant Whisperers created history at the Oscars this past week as it became the first Indian production to win the Academy Award. Director Kartiki Gonsalves and producer Guneet Monga received the award on stage amid a loud ovation. However, there was a bitter moment when Guneet’s emotional acceptance speech was cut short by the producers of the event due to a time-limit for acceptance speeches at the awards.

The Oscars have a 45-second rule for acceptance speeches. If any awardee exceeds that time limit, the live orchestra at the event begins playing and drowns the speech out, effectively cutting it short. This is what happened with Guneet, who looked baffled on stage. The act was criticised by many in the American media too, who felt that she should have been allowed to speak.

Now, Guneet has opened up on how it made her feel. Speaking to Bombay Times, the filmmaker said, “I am extremely disheartened that my speech was cut off. There was a shock on my face. I just wanted to say it's India's first Oscar in Indian production, which is such a huge thing. My heart started racing as I couldn't have come so far and not be heard. Western media is pulling up The Academy that I did not get to speak. People are so offended that I did not get the chance to deliver my speech. There are videos and tweets online expressing disappointment that I couldn’t get to speak. This was India's moment taken away from me. But then, I thought it's okay, I'll come back here and I will make sure I'm heard. I have got multiple opportunities to share my thoughts and it’s heartening to receive all the love. So a little empathy can go a long way here!”

The filmmaker added she still feels surreal about having won an Oscar. “It will take time for all this to sink in. It feels like a beginning of a new chapter for Indian cinema. This is the first Oscar for an Indian production. My team and I are thrilled to have represented India on a global stage. We are grateful for all the love that this story of indigenous people, an orphan baby elephant Raghu and the caretakers Bommon and Bellie, have received,” said Guneet.

The Elephant Whisperers is a documentary that focuses on a tribal couple – Bomman and Bellie – and their bond with an injured elephant calf that they raise. The film was shot over five years and was released to acclaim on Netflix last year. It won the Oscar in the Best Documentary Short Subject category.

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