Speaking to Indrani Pal-Chaudhuri is like chatting with the best friend you always wished you had, the gentle confidence in her voice inviting you into her enticing world. As she described her 15-year-old self, a model just breaking into the realm of photography, I remembered myself at that age, drawing hearts around my crush’s name while attempting to listen in class. Intimidating? Perhaps at first. But every piece of her captivating story will leave you wishing you could have met that young girl, full of big dreams on the verge of coming true.

From day one, fashion photographer and film director Indrani Pal-Chaudhuri was on a path paved by incredible mentors. While studying Anthropology at Princeton, her work was discovered by none other than music legend David Bowie, which led to her first major gig, directing his “Valentine’s Day” video. From there, she met iconic fashion model Iman, the next mentor who would help her dreams come to fruition. But her most significant encounter was with her future partner-in-crime, Markus Klinko, which led to a life-changing collaboration. Together, they conquered the photography world, shooting for celebrities like Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey and Alicia Keys and in 2012, they published their very own coffee table book entitled Icons, setting their career in stone.

Though her work has been published in prestigious magazines like Vogue, Vanity Fair and Harper’s Bazaar, Indrani remains humbled by her Indian roots. Wise beyond her years, she started the Shakti Empowerment Education Foundation in India at the ripe age of 18 to help young women and refugee children get proper schooling. Today, she continues to work for various non-profits, including 30 NGOs, while infusing her culture into her work. In fact, aside from her connection to David Bowie, her Indian roots played a quintessential role in launching her career as a filmmaker. Her first project, Digital Death, which went on to win two Gold Lions at the Cannes Film Festival of Creativity, was for Keep A Child Alive, an organization that fights AIDs in Africa and India. According to Indrani, this project was a major stepping-stone in her film career

“I’ve done a lot of this charitable work and I wanted to tell those more complex stories,” she explains. “[Keep A Child Alive] was really how I transitioned as I started to do more and more projects where I felt the need to do a film component or where the client wanted to extend the storytelling through film, as well.”

In 2015, Indrani further paid tribute to her home by directing Girl Rising India alongside Richard Robbins, which featured women like Priyanka Chopra, Freida Pinto and Kareena Kapoor, and advocated female empowerment. Inspired by ancient stories, two of her most well-received films were The Legend of Lady White Snake, which won 17 awards across the film festival circuit, and Till Human Voices Wake Us, a film that won “Best of New York” at the New York Short Film Festival and “Best Film” at the International Fashion Film Festival. Her current project is a feature film based on a classic hero you may be familiar with, but with a twist.

“I’ve always loved the classic Sherlock Holmes stories and I’ve always wondered why we don’t see Sherlock Holmes depicted as a woman,” she explains, discussing her latest endeavor, The Huntress. The film, which was produced alongside Rick Schwartz and Executive Producer Jeremy Frommer, will feature a female Sherlock Holmes and an A-list cast, which has yet to be revealed. Best known for Black Swan, The Departed and Gangs of New York, Rick Schwartz, who also co-produced Till Human Voices Wake Us, is yet another mentor she could check off her list.

“This film really celebrates a woman that is completely empowered, does things in a different way from most people, and is celebrated because of that,” she explains, when discussing her characters. Her choice to make Sherlock Holmes a medical stem cell researcher and his sidekick, Watson, a computer engineer and hacker, highlights the gender gap in certain male-dominated careers. “One of the reasons a lot of women cite for not pursuing studies in those areas is just because there’s a great lack of role models and a lack of encouragement that they face.”

As for her next big project? “I have a number of films that I’m working on,” she tells us. “One that’s set in India that I’m very passionate about. That’s the story of three young girls overcoming all kinds of challenges and it’s a Hunger Games meets Slumdog Millionaire.” Whether she’s working on her fashion photography, a new film project, or her latest music video, “This House Is Not For Sale,” for Jon Bon Jovi, Indrani continues to move her audience, while simultaneously using her art to craft a better world. “To me, creating something iconic means you create something that changes your audience. After seeing it, they’re never quite the same. They’ll always remember that image or that series of images and I think that’s the purpose of art, to create change in the world.” Spoken like a true icon.

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About The Author

Belinda Anidjar

Belinda is a writer with a BA in English Literature from Concordia University. She can be spotted reading in every public setting imaginable. Whether a 19th-century novel or a fashion magazine, she’s addicted to stories, fashion, and stories about fashion. Her eyes may rarely leave the page, but she can instantly be recognized by her tiny stature and bold lipstick.

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