Indrani Pal-Chaudhuri was born in Calcutta, India and relocated to Canada where, at the young age of 14, she embarked on a successful career as a fashion model while attending Princeton University studying Anthropology. At Princeton, she spearheaded the student movement to create a Program in South Asian Studies, and revived the teaching of Sanskrit (Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Mah?y?na Buddhism. It is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India). She also won Glamour Magazine’s Top 10 College Women Competition. During these years Indrani lived a dual identity; a stylish, sophisticated fashion model and a martial arts attired book-bag toting intellectual. The perfect combination of both brains and beauty.
She developed a long term personal and professional relationship with Markus Klinko and the pair was discovered by fashion icon Isabella Blow, who gave them their first magazine cover. David Bowie and Iman commissioned their first album art and book cover.
They created award-winning covers for Beyonce for her solo debut “Dangerously in Love”, Mariah Carey for “Emancipation of Mimi” and Mary J Blige for “The Breakthrough”, each of which became a turning point in their careers and top selling albums of the year. Numerous prestigious editorials and award-winning ad campaigns followed.
The duo’s recent subjects include Kate Winslet, Katie Holmes, Eva Mendes, Anne Hathaway, Will Smith, Elijah Wood, Lady Gaga, Alicia Keys, Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Christina Aguilera, Keanu Reeves, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Val Kilmer, Serena Williams, Jay-Z, and Kanye West.
Their advertising clients include Barneys NY, Elizabeth Arden, Hugo Boss, Anna Sui, Shiseido, L’Oreal Paris, Pantene, Pepsi, Nike, Polo, Baume-et-Mercier and Debeers; Their work is seen in numerous publications including Flaunt, Rolling Stone, Interview, V Magazine, Vanity Fair and Vogue.
They were also the subject of Bravo’s “Double Exposure” which follows their artistic adventures on photo shoots with celebrity and fashion stars.
In addition to brains and beauty, Indrani also has heart. She co-founded Shakti Empowerment Education for Women and Children, www.SEEschool.org, a charitable education foundation in her ancestral home which provides free, quality education to over 300 children and women, as well as a free homeopathic dispensary, free vocational training, and free adult literacy classes to the poor.
Anthropological studies of all societies show people judge each other by appearance, especially those items considered changeable, therefore it is doing a disservice to your cause if you ignore the need to make your style part of your message.
Asiance: Indrani. You spent much time in front of the camera, when and how did you find your passion for working behind the camera?
Indrani: I grew up in India surrounded by the beauty of iconic classical art, and when I discovered films and photography, I was determined to master these arts and use them to inspire positive change. I became a model so that I could learn from the great artists around the world, and I was very fortunate to be successful and achieve not only that goal but to earn enough to found my school.
Asiance: Your list of clients reads like a who’s who of the famous and powerful of celebrities in the entertainment and fashion world. Is there anyone you particularly enjoyed working with?
Indrani: I’m so fortunate to work with all of my clients and love them all dearly. I enjoyed working with each for different reasons: Lady Gaga is a fantastic actress and so open to our ideas, it was extraordinary creating art together; Jennifer Lopez was extremely creatively inspired, with a strong vision and a delightful personality; Christina Aguilera was fascinating and empowering, encouraging me to share my opinions when others were ready to override them, and David Bowie and Iman are just the most intelligent and inspiring couple I’ve ever met.
Asiance: You and Markus have an interesting work dynamic. Completely honest and open. Even when you do not agree you can tell there is a huge amount of respect you have for each other. Was this always the case or did it come about over time?
Indrani: Markus and I have earned each other’s respect through 16 years of pushing each other and ourselves to create the best work possible for us, and we know that we’ll do whatever it takes to make it so.
This was a funny scene from Markus’ and Indrani’s Bravo Show “Double Exposure”. Markus Klinko is definitely a fish out of water when he and Indrani visit India.
Asiance: One of the things that is immediately noticeable is your sense of style carries through in your personal and working life. How important is it to work at creating the image of yourself of the person you want people to see?
Indrani: Only you can decide who you will be, and what others will see you to be. Anthropological studies of all societies show people judge each other by appearance, especially those items considered changeable, therefore it is doing a disservice to your cause if you ignore the need to make your style part of your message.
Asiance: I understand you are working on a book now about image. What do you hope the readers will gain from your book?
Indrani: I’m writing Image Craft, as step by step guide to learning the secrets of the stars, to create an iconic visual representation of yourself that is true to your highest self, and to live up to your own standards, to improve yourself from the inside out.
Asiance: “Double Exposure” actually came about because of a treatment you wrote and shopped around. Any plans to continue working in television?
Indrani: I am directing films, documentaries, and commercials, solo, while continuing doing photography with Markus, often at the same time. I wrote and directed my first film “The Legend of Lady White Snake: A Tribute to Alexander McQueen,” previews of which are exhibited at the prestigious Daphne Guinness exhibition at the Fashion Institute from September 26-January 6, 2012. The film is inspired by an ancient Chinese legend, about obsession and transformation, and stars The Honorable Daphne Guinness, in the most fantastical costumes by Alexander McQueen and other designers inspired by his spirit.
“The Legend of Lady White Snake: A Tribute to Alexander McQueen”
Asiance: I understand you have studied philosophy and meditation at monasteries while traveling. You seem to always maintain a sense of calmness and humor in spite of the stresses of your work. Do you attribute this to your studies?
Indrani: I studied philosophy at numerous spiritual centers around the world, and then I became a student of Swami Bhuteshananda, President of the Ramakrishna Order, where I was initiated with mantradeeksha at the age of 19. I wanted to become a monk, but I also wanted to create a school in India, and be an artist, and I couldn’t do both, so I chose the path of illusion! Every challenge is a blessing that can help us learn and grow. The Divine Director has such a subtle and dark sense of humor, artists must be thankful constantly for the extraordinary material she gives us to work with every day. I put celebrities in coffins to raise awareness to fight AIDS in India and Africa, people were outraged but we raised over a million dollars in less than a week for Keep A Child Alive.
Asiance: A large part of Asiance’s audience is Asian American women. Do you think it has been hard for them to break into different areas of the industry?
Indrani: It is extremely challenging for women, and particularly for minority women. HSBC bank has an ad stating that 96% of directors in America are male. Successful female photographers and TV directors are equally rare. So the most powerful influencers of the way women view themselves are at least 80% male–and we have no one to blame than ourselves. We must support female and minority artists much more.
See Indrani’s reel http://www.aerofilm.tv/director/indrani
Cover photo. Dress design by GK Reid, adapted from Indrani’s grandmother’s sari.