While growing up in Ranaghat, 74 kms north of Kolkata, the importance of a good education was never lost upon Indrani Pal-Chaudhuri’s father. It was only years later that Chaudhuri reaped the benefits of her education. “My parents always encouraged me to study. I went to Princeton University and graduated with a degree in Anthropology, so the importance of education was very much instilled in me,” says photographer-filmmaker Chaudhuri, who is known for shooting David Bowie music videos, cover shoots for fashion magazines like Vogue, including published work for The New York Times.
But despite her commercial recognition in the US, Chaudhuri was drawn to the cause of girl’s empowerment back home, in India. She has just completed her second short film, Crescendo, which looks at how football and vocational training are coming together in a beautiful way to empower girls in India. “I had heard about a group of girls in India who played football and were winning tournaments. I thought it was an interesting way to further education,” adds Chaudhuri, whose film is part of the Pepsi Beats of the Beautiful Game, a music series, with tracks that were created for the FIFA World Cup 2014.
The four-minute 42 seconds film is set in the blue city of Jodhpur, where girls wearing T-shirts and shorts are running around in the lanes playing football, weaving past traffic and pedestrians. The film features girls from YUWA, a trust from Jharkhand, that trains girls from underprivileged families in football along with girls from the Sambhali Trust, Jodhpur, which imparts vocational training to girls. “The combination of the two sets of skills is unique and shows how education can also be made fun,” says the 40-year-old, who shot in Jodhpur. Moving to the States at the age of eight, Chaudhuri returned to Kolkata as an 18-year-old to set up the Shakti Empowerment Education, an education society at her ancestral home, to support lower-income families.
The concept of the film she says, was to “focus on the solutions (of education) and remind people that solutions can often be as simple as empowering girls”. Her earlier film, in 2012 titled The Girl Epidemic was a grim reminder of the practice of female infanticide and the stigma of the girl child in India. The film is set to music by British indie-pop singer Jetta, whose foot-tapping track Crescendo, which is produced by Pharell Williams, sets the mood of the film. An elephant which features in the film, “represents the forces of what is natural and beautiful.” Chaudhuri is currently developing a project for India, which she will unveil in November, with Bollywood actors.