Indrani is an Indian-Canadian-British director and photographer.
She is described as a "rad feminist director and fashion photographer" by Julianne E. Shepherd of Jezebel. Known by a single name, Indrani is "renowned for her iconic imagery and visionary storytelling, collaborations with Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, Alicia Keys, Jay-Z, and Kanye West" according to Shinjini Das, contributor to the Huffington Post. Her work was discovered by David Bowie and Iman (model) who became mentors, commissioning her first album cover for "Heathen" and later Bowie launched her directorial career, commissioning her first major music video, for his song "Valentine's Day" exploring the mind of a high school shooter, on his album The Next Day. Now known as a young director of films that have won 29 awards, including the Tribeca Film Festival 2019 Disruptive Innovation Award, the Max Mark-Cranbrook 2019 Global Peacemaker Award, and two gold lions at Cannes Festival of Creativity. Known for her extensive human rights, women's and LGBTQIA+ empowerment work, "Wielding her visionary work like a weapon, Indrani is using her art and resources for social justice and change."
Early Life, Teen Model/Actor Career
Indrani was born in Kolkata, India, in 1983, raised in the historic palace of her traditional Zamindar family, and accompanied her British mother as a volunteer with Mother Teresa and the Ramakrishna Mission. Both her parents were accountants. She witnessed "the devastating poverty that stood in stark contrast to her own childhood," which motivated her to someday make a difference in the area. In Canada she experienced racism with her family, and she fought by the side of her African-Canadian stepfather in court against illegal evictions, and a pharmaceutical company that knowingly sold medications that caused his debilitating diabetes.
Indrani began modeling and acting at age 14, in order to study photography and film with artists around the world, and became a rising star. She was featured in Vogue, Glamour, Elle and Marie Claire, and in campaigns and commercials for Benetton in Japan, MAC Cosmetics, VH1, Luxottica, Nescafe, and many others. Her experience as a successful model/actor became a window of cultural perspective as her career took her all over the world.
Founding of Shakti Empowerment Education Foundation and South Asian Studies Program at Princeton University
At 18, Indrani returned to India for a 6 month pilgrimage, and turned her family home into a charitable school, to give girls a better future. She named the school Shakti Empowerment Education Foundation (SEEschool.org) and currently educates around 300 youth, both girls and boys and provides women with literacy and vocational training, as well as microfinancing, and continues as the school's Executive Director.
After high school, Indrani met Markus Klinko, a classical harpist, who became a regular collaborator and the two began their photography careers as the photography duo known as Markus + Indrani. According to Fast Company, "When Markus Klinko and Indrani Pal-Chaudhuri teamed up...both were already stars--Klinko as a classical harpist and Indrani as a fashion model. Now they are famous for their iconic images."
Indrani received a scholarship to Princeton University where she studied cultural anthropology, while advancing her career as a photographer in NYC. A passionate advocate of Indian culture, at Princeton she reinstated the study of Sanskrit, and led a student initiative to create a program in South Asian Studies. She graduated with a magna cum laude (with High Honors) AB in Anthropology.
Photographer and Director
Indrani has won acclaim as a photographer, a director, director of photography and producer of films and commercials. Films which Indrani has directed and produced have won numerous awards including the Tribeca Film Festival Disruptive Innovation Award 2019, Best Picture at the CNN 2018 Expose Awards, presented by Quincy Jones, and two gold lions at Cannes. She won first prize in four categories at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival 2015 for "Best Picture," "Best Visual Effects," "Best Costumes" and "Best Production Design"; "Best Film," "Best Director" and "Best Design" at the London Fashion Film Festival 2015, "Best of Festival" at the Princeton Film Festival, 2015, "Best Film" at the International Fashion Film Festival Los Angeles 2015, first prize in the top four categories at the International Fashion Film Festival at the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, including "Best Film," "Best Director," "Best Fashion," "Best Special Effects" and the RED Camera Award.
While Indrani was a student at Princeton, David Bowie and Iman discovered her photography and commissioned her first album cover for Heathen and I am Iman with Klinko. Indrani's fashion work was discovered by Isabella Blow, known for discovering some of the fashion world's most important figures including Alexander McQueen, Philip Treacy and John Galliano, who commissioned cover stories for the London Sunday Times. Around the same time, Ingrid Sischy at Interview magazine commissioned various shoots. Indrani credits Blow, Bowie and Iman for mentoring her and encouraging her to push her creative boundaries. Indrani helped launch the solo careers of Beyoncé and Lady Gaga, creating award-winning album covers for their solo debuts Dangerously in Love and The Fame Monster (Collector's Ed) respectively, as well as Mariah Carey's comeback Emancipation of Mimi and Mary J. Blige's breakthrough,The Breakthrough among others.
Indrani has created the branding image for clients including Pepsi, Nike, L'Oréal, Shiseido, Lancome, Jaguar, LVMH, Hugo Boss, Anna Sui, Wolford, BNP Paribas, Elizabeth Arden, Pantene, Carol's Daughter and MAC.
In 2013 David Bowie launched Indrani's directorial career with her first major music video for his "Valentine's Day", exploring the mind of a high school mass shooter, and her work and interviews are featured in the HBO / BBC Film "David Bowie: The Last Five Years." Eric Danton of Rolling Stone says Bowie "radiates intensity," Robin Hilton of NPR calls it "thrilling and intense." Described by Michael Bonner in The Uncut as "Indrani's video. It is compelling. I think she captured something about him - and the story around how she did it is quite interesting."
Her video and stills campaign with TBWA-Chiat-Day for Keep a Child Alive against AIDS in India and Africa won two gold lions at Cannes. Indrani directed a short documentary for PSI and the UN's Nothing But Nets featuring ambassador actress Mandy Moore. She directed The Girl Epidemic to raise awareness of the millions of girls missing in Asia due to human trafficking, child labor and female infanticide for Project Nanhi Kali with ad agency Strawberry Frog and won best film at the CNN Expose award, presented by Quincy Jones. It is described by the Huffington Post's Katherine Brooks as "powerful" and by Scott Goodson for Forbes as "brilliant and provocative!" Her short "Crescendo," curated by Pepsi's Beats of the Beautiful Game, uses football to empower girls in India and is described by Julianne Shepherd of Jezebel as a "Rad Feminist Short Film...A jubilant, sweet clip...(with) an underlying feminist message" and by Katherine Brooks of The Huffington Post as "Photographer uses football to empower girls in India" in partnership with nonprofits Sambhali Trust, Yuwa, and SEEschool.
Indrani's work has been published in over 25 books and shown in over 20 exhibitions, and her portrait of Beyonce is on permanent exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC. In 2013 the Lincoln Center presented a week-long 30-piece public art exhibition Icons, to accompany the release of the photobook, Icons: The celebrity exposures of Markus and Indrani, published by Perseus Press. Icons is described as the product of 18 years as "a visionary tour de force" by Katie Amey for Elle; and "High-concept and hyperrealism commingle" by Kimberley Jones for the Austin Chronicle.
An exhibition at the Pacific Design Center LA was presented by the Lucie Foundation in concert with the Month of Photography Los Angeles and the Farmani Gallery, and the Icons Exhibition of her work was presented by The Angel Orensanz Foundation for Contemporary Art NY and Bravo TV to celebrate "Double Exposure" on 16 June 2010.
"The Legend of Lady White Snake" short film, with a poem by Neil Gaiman, "The Hidden Chamber" written and directed by Indrani, inspired by an ancient Chinese story, starred "fashion icon and brewery fortune heiress" Daphne Guinness in costumes by GK Reid and Alexander McQueen.
"Till Human Voices Wake Us", a short film produced by Rick Schwartz (Black Swan, Gangs of New York), was written and directed by Indrani, creative directed and executive produced by GK Reid, and stars Lindsay Lohan and a dozen new actresses the team discovered through a large talent search. A dream within a dream, of Selkies, mythical creatures that are women on land and seals in water, the film reminds viewers of the magic and mysteries of the creatures of the sea, and is a plea for sustainability of the oceans.
Indrani directed a music video for Alicia Keys' New Day described as "bold and high-energy" by Jenna Rubenstein for MTV, as well as music videos for Mary J. Blige, Mariah Carey, and Bon Jovi among others.
For "Girl Rising, India" a feature-length film for girls' empowerment, Indrani directed the Bollywood stars Freida Pinto, Priyanka Chopra, Alia Bhatt, Kareena Kapoor, Nandita Das Priyanka Chopra Sushmita Sen and Madhuri Dixit for the original Indian content, with a video and photo campaign which she also shot, that trended on Twitter when released on 29 August 2015, and became part of the Indian government's campaign Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (translation: Save girl child, educate a girl child).
Empowering Women of Color and Social Justice Advocacy
Indrani is known for her social justice advocacy, for racial, sexual and LGBTQIA+ equality, for women's empowerment, health and environmental sustainability, and for her work against human trafficking. Due to her extensive work in these areas, Indrani is a United Nations Women's Entrepreneurship Distinguished Fellow 2018, and won the 2019 Max Mark-Cranbrook Global Peace Maker Award (past winners include Nobel Prize Laureates Bishop Desmond Tutu and Jody Williams, Mary Robinson former President of Ireland and UN High Commissioner, and Noam Chomsky).
At the age of 18, Indrani co-founded Shakti Empowerment Education otherwise known as SEEschool.org, turning her family's palace into a foundation and school for economically challenged women and children. Providing free education to 300 children, vocational training and microfinancing, outside her native Kolkata, India, with an emphasis on the rights of girls. She continues as Executive Director, "She is in charge of fundraising, advertising, and development." Pesta of The Daily Beast says "Indrani changes the fate of forgotten girls...and is fighting to give girls a better future."
Much of Indrani's work and her films focus on the empowerment of women of color, and her work as an abolitionist against human trafficking. Her "Girl Epidemic" short film, on the millions of girls missing in Asia due to child labor, female infanticide, and sex trafficking, won the Tribeca Film Festival 2019 Disruptor Award, and the CNN Expose 2018 Best Picture Award, and was created in partnership with Anand Mahindra's "Nanhi Kali Foundation" and ad agency "Strawberry Frog." Her "Girl Rising India," raises awareness of the importance of girls' empowerment, for which she raised the funding and directed Indian stars, which became central to Prime Minister Modi's "Beti Bachao-Beti Padhao" social awareness campaign (trans: "Save the Daughter, Educate the Daughter"). Her "Crescendo" short film, which became part of Pepsi's "Beats of the Beautiful Game, shows how "sports uplift and empower girls to develop physical and mental strength, discipline, self-confidence, leadership and a sense of community." Her video and stills campaign "Digital Death" for HIV/AIDS in Africa and India, stars Kim Kardashian, Alicia Keys, Janelle Monáe, Serena Williams, Usher, and many others.
As well as working with over two dozen non-profits, Indrani was Special Advisor to the UNGMDF World Fashion Forum and Director of Relations at the UN World Film Forum 2013-2015. She is Co-Host of the Global People's Summit 2018 during the General Assembly at the United Nations, democratizing access to conversations and information that shapes the world, with the President of the General Assembly and 190 countries live. She is a United Nations Women's Entrepreneurship Distinguished Fellow, and is regularly invited to speak at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
Indrani was invited as the keynote speaker at the Harvard University Kennedy School Carr Center for Human Rights Policy's Pride and Progress LGBTQ Film Symposium 2019, and as the keynote speaker at the Princeton University Lewis Center Creative Arts and Humanities Symposium 2018.
- "Max Mark-Cranbrook Global Peacemaker Award" at the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, presented at the Arab American Museum, 2019.
- "Disruptive Innovation Award" at the Tribeca Film Festival, 2019.
- "Best Picture" at the CNN Expose Film Awards, presented by Quincy Jones, 2018.
- "Inspirique: Circle of Light" Award at the Harvard University 2018 Global Forum.
- "Best Director" at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival, 2016.
- "Best Director" at the London Fashion Film Festival, 2016.
- "Best of New York" at the New York Short Film Festival, 2016.
- "Best Picture," "Best Production Design," "Best Costume Design" and "Best Visual Effects" at the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival, 2016.
- "Best Picture," "Best Director" and "Best Accessories Design" at the London Fashion Film Festival, 2016.
- "Best Picture" and was nominated for "Best Director" at the International Fashion Film Festival at Cinemoi in Los Angeles, 2015.
- "Best of Festival" at the Princeton University Film Festival, 2015.
- Opening Night screening at the Los Angeles Short Film Festival, 2015.
- Screened at the Milan Fashion Film Festival, Italy, 2015.
- Screened at ASVOFF at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2015.
- Screened at ASVOFF at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, 2013.
- "Best Picture," "Best Director," "Best Costume Design," "Best Visual Effects" and the "RED Epic Camera Award" at the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, La Jolla Fashion Film Festival.
- Two Gold Lions at Cannes Festival of Creativity for "Digital Death" for Keep A Child Alive /TBWA NY.
- "Exceptional Achievement Elite Award" by South Asia Magazine.
- Markus and Indrani won "Best of Show" at Lucie Awards International Photography Awards, 2007
- Alex Award for Beyonce's "Dangerously in Love" album cover, 2004
- Glamour Magazine's "Top 10 College Women Award" 2001
TV Series and Media
Indrani, Klinko, and creative director / producer GK Reid were the subjects of Bravo reality show called Double Exposure documenting their photo shoots from initial thought to hard copy. According to Troy Patterson of Slate, "Themes include the aesthetics of desire, the symbiosis of artist and muse." The show is described by Zoë Ruderman as "like America's Next Top Model and Project Runway mixed together and on speed."
Created in the US for the Bravo network, Double Exposure has been syndicated in over a hundred countries.
Indrani has been a guest on America's Next Top Model, Make Me a Supermodel, and was interviewed for E! News, Access Hollywood, Fashion Television, CNN's Showbiz Tonight and Larry King Live.