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, and her Rastafarian stepfather was a musician and counsellor. 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 and her Jamaican family 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, 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 supports over 300 students, 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 campaigned and 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 Imanwith 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 Interviewmagazine 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 Mary J. Blige‘s breakthrough,The Breakthrough and Mariah Carey‘s comeback Emancipation of Mimi and directed their music videos. 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.” Francis Whatley in an interview about the HBO / BBC documentary with Michael Bonner in The Uncut describes Valentine’s Day 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…She had to draw out of him that he was singing about a killer.”
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 Picture 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…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, is a re-imagining of an ancient Asian story, starring “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. An inversion of a poem by T.S. Eliot “The Love Song of S. Alfred Prufrock, it is a dream within a dream, of Selkies, Celtic mythical creatures that are women on land and seals in water, who storm Manhattan to save one of their kind, and the oceans. 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).
Her The Great Artist was Oscar-qualified in 2021, and selected by “The Hollywood Reporter” as one of the top 5 Oscar contenders for short live-action, winning over 19 awards. Outfest and GLAAD presented a virtual screening and panel discussion with cast and crew including Emmy-nominated transgender actress Rain Valdez. Created to destigmatize and encourage discussion on mental health through the lens of the art world, inclusive of the LGBTQ+ communities and people of color, who are often underserved and at greater risk during COVID. Partner nonprofits included GLADD, American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, National Association of Mental Illnesses CA (NAMI), National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Movember, Kindred, Tethr, The Tramuto Foundation, and Stand with Impact.
University Lecturer, Education Foundation Director, and Social Justice Advocate
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 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 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. She was also Special Advisor to the UNGMDF, its Tech World Forum, Fashion World Forum and Director of Relations at the UN World Film Forum 2013–2015.
Indrani was invited as the keynote speaker at the Princeton University Creative Arts and Humanities Symposium 2018 on “, Princeton’s Innovation Engage 2020 on “The Art of Social Change”, and at the Princeton Humanities Council’s Organizing Stories, spoke on “Mythography, Digital Storytelling, and Counter-Colonizing the Heteropatriarchal Gaze,” Center for Human Values, Department of African American Studies and the African Humanities Colloquium, April 2021. Indrani organizes and hosts Princeton Lewis Center’s “The Art of Anti-Racism and Social Change” symposium, with Oscar-winning actress Mo’Nique, Black Lives Matter NY Co-Founder Hawk Newsome, civil rights activist/actress Gina Belafonte, Indigenous activist/actor Eugene Brave Rock (Wonder Woman). and is keynote speaker at the Harvard University Kennedy School Carr Center for Human Rights Policy’s Pride and Progress LGBTQ Film Symposium 2019. She is a Princeton University Visiting Lecturer on “Moving Millions with Art and Film for Human Rights and Social Justice.”
- Clubhouse “Creator First” Finalist, 2021.
- “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.
- “Hall of Distinction Induction” at Havergal College 125 Celebration, Roy Thompson Hall, 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” 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
Television 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 and her work was featured on the BBC / HBO Film “David Bowie: The Last 5 Years.” She was 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.