Sooni Taraporevala

Birthday: 1957

Sooni Taraporevala (born 1957) is a famous photographer and an eminent Indian screenwriter, best known for movies like Mississippi Masala, The Namesake, and the Oscar-nominated Salaam Bombay, all directed by Mira Nair, whom she met during her undergraduate days when both of them joined Harvard to pursue their individual goals. Their initial camaraderie fostered into their longtime creative collaboration which saw them enjoy humongous success worldwide.

The screenplays for both Salaam Bombay and Mississippi Masala were written by Mrs. Sooni during her stint in Brooklyn, New York. Salaam Bombay (1986) managed to earn critical acclaim worldwide and was nominated for the Oscars. The film made further strides when it had gathered more than twenty-five awards throughout the globe. The fact that Taraporevala earned the coveted Lillian Gish Award for Excellence in Film from Women in Film in 1988 was a mere icing on the cake. Mississippi Masala, her second screenplay, also for her friend and director Mira Nair, took them to the Venice Film Festival 1990 and won them the Osella Award for Best Screenplay. Interestingly, it was translated into a film starring Denzel Washington.

Other collaborations of the dynamic duo of Nair and Sooni include the screenplay for My Own Country based on the book by Abraham Varghese, and the cinematic interpretation of Pulitzer writer Jhumpa Lahiri’s Novel, The Namesake. Sooni, A proud recipient of the Padma Shri in 2014, also bagged the National Award from the Indian government for Best Film on family issues, as well as ten international awards including the Audience Choice Award at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, Time/Warner Best Screenplay for her directorial debut Little Zizou. Born in Mumbai, into a Parsi family, she completed her schooling from The Cathedral & John Connon School as well as Queen Mary School.

After studying at Queen Mary School, Bombay, she went abroad to pursue her dreams. She attended Harvard University pursuing English Literature, and Film and Photography after receiving a handsome scholarship to study at one of the most prestigious institutions of the world. After completing her B.A. from Harvard in 1980, she enrolled in the Cinema Studies Department at the New York University. She mastered Film Theory and Criticism there and received her M.A. in 1981, after which she returned to her homeland, India, to work as a Freelance Photographer. During her time abroad, she met photographer Raghubir Singh, who suggested her that she should work on a book on the Parsi community.

Raghubir gave this valued suggestion after he was astounded by her gallery of photographs which was centered on her extended Parsi family. Since then she has bathed in glory, her photographs being exhibited in India, the US, Britain, and France including London’s Tate Modern Gallery. Her contribution to the field of Photography increased further when she published a Coffee Table Photography Book, the first-ever visual work on India’s Parsi Zoroastrian community. The book entitled Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India portrayed the labour of love through a collection of rare photos and personal essays on the Parsi Social History. The book garnered praise worldwide, with many veterans such as Homi K Bhabha, Rohinton Mistry, and Bapsi Sidhwa labeling it as a once in a lifetime attraction.

A vivid screenplay writer, a creative director, and an imaginative photographer makes her a complete package. Despite all her hectic preoccupations and workload, she still manages to devote time to her family. America gave wings to her talent providing her the perfect platform for her work, but home is where the heart belongs, so she returned to India in 1993 after living in America for 18 long years. She is now happily married to Firdaus Bativala, a dental surgeon and resides in Mumbai along with her family. She is the mother of two kids Jahan and Iyanah, both of whom had leading roles in the movie, Little Zizou (2009). A loyal wife and a caring mother, she strikes the perfect balance between professional and personal life making her an embodiment to behold and look up to.

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