Vikas Khanna Calls Guneet Monga Winning Oscar the 'Happiest and Saddest Day' of His Life | Exclusive
Vikas Khanna Calls Guneet Monga Winning Oscar the 'Happiest and Saddest Day' of His Life | Exclusive
American Sikh which an animated short has received its Oscar qualification, both Vikas Khanna and Guneet Monga Kapoor are associated with it

While the world loves watching Chef Vikas Khanna as a judge on MasterChef, not many people know about his association with films. Vikas Khanna’s knowledge of films is unparalleled, and his fans and followers might be surprised to know he is also a film director. The last film Khanna directed starred Neena Gupta and his upcoming film has Shabana Azmi as the lead.

Over the last couple of years, India has seen a brilliant representation at the Oscars. This time around a short film titled ‘American Sikh’ has received qualifications for the Academy Awards. This film has been executively produced by Guneet Monga Kapoor and Vikas Khanna. In an interview with News18, Chef Vikas talks about the Oscar qualification, his Oscar dream, his equation with Guneet Monga Kapoor, his experience of working with Shabana Azmi, and much more. Read the excerpts from the interview:

You are associated with the Oscar-qualified short ‘American Sikh.’ Would you like to tell us a little about that?

I am the executive producer of the film along with Oscar winner Guneet Monga Kapoor. It is one of the most wonderful short animated films you will watch. It’s an animated film of nine minutes and when you watch it, your heart will be happy that you watched something like that. It is about a Sikh boy Vishvajit who was born in Washington DC but came back to India before the 1984 riots took place. He witnesses the harsh realities of life, of being a Sikh in India at that point in time and then he moves back to America where he starts noticing the increased racism after the 9/11 attacks. He does not know what to do with so much hate around him and he starts dressing up like a Superhero like Captain America and people start embracing that idea.

In 2013, I read about him and I have followed him for many years- he is my lifeline. When Ryan Westra (Hollywood filmmaker) decided to make a movie on Vishvajt, I felt amazing in my heart felt amazing! It is a beautiful film that talks about inclusivity, celebrating uniqueness, and how a diverse society which is diverse embraces it.

Has the Oscar qualification sunk in?

No, it never does. Oscar qualification for short films means that you have to get into some top film festivals around the world and win awards. This movie has been winning awards left and right. I feel it will be one of the biggest moments of my life to see a Sikh with a turban and beard walk up the stairs of the Oscars and receive the award. I think that is how you answer for hate- to rise above everyone else. I am standing behind it with every drop of my blood.

Guneet Monga Kapoor and you are such good friends and we have seen how much your mother loves her too…

My mother told her a long time back, ‘You (will) win the Oscars, and when you will, bring it to Amritsar. I am going to pick you up from the airport.; I have cars and drivers but my mom is like ‘No, my daughter is coming home after becoming such a big leader for our country, I need to.’ We got the car for Gunnet right inside the airport. It was very emotional that the way Guneet came and how the country embraced her, she has written a whole new chapter for Indian women in the world. For me in the media world, she is the most powerful Indian woman in the world who is respected across borders.

What kind of conversation do the two of you have about food and films? 

We have so much more. I have to learn so much from Guneet. I will share an incident that might be the happiest and the saddest day of my life. So, Guneet won the Oscar and I was watching her, she did not have a speech. I was messaging Sunny, her husband because I saw that they were literally asked to leave. I am super excited about the win and am jumping in my hotel room when I get a call from Guneet and she says ‘We won’ and then the phone hangs up. Then I get a call from Sunny that Guneet had a major nervous breakdown and Sunny hangs up the phone. So all night, I was calling all the emergency centers in Beverly Hills, in LA trying to figure out where she was. After 24 hours, I got a message from Sunny that she was okay.

Do you think it would have been better if your last directed film ‘The Last Colour’ had received a wider release?

Absolutely. I love thinking like an arts person but I am a businessman, somedays your equity has to be that. But the movie ran in 100 film festivals around the world and in March it was the No.1 movie on OTT. For a chef to create a movie on his own, I think it is phenomenal. What bigger audience do you need when a movie can change a law? The success of the movie is by the impact, if a movie could get me in front of Congressmen in Washington DC then the movie has done its job. If the movie got a standing ovation at the United Nations, what bigger audience do I need?

You have worked with Shabana Azmi too for ‘The Imaginary Rains’ which is your upcoming directorial venture. She had admitted she could barely make tea but you wanted her to learn how to cook. How did you nudge her in that direction?

Shabana ji is a perfectionist and gets completely into her character. One of the greatest actors, she can hold something and claim it to be her but she wants to go through it all. From stuffing the bhindis to making chicken tikka masala, she did all the cooking in the film by herself. We did not help her with cooking, she did it all by herself. Because she is such an intelligent human being when she keeps something in her mind, she does it. Well, just look at who her father was! Like father, like daughter. I would tell her that she is capable of doing anything, look at her DNA. She would make perfect chapatis, I am sure Javed ji has not tasted a roti made by her yet but for years my WhatsApp display picture was of the perfect roti she made.

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