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Sooni Taraporevala
Sooni Taraporevala image
Sooni Taraporevala in 2010
Born1957 (age 66–67)
Occupation(s)screenwriter, film director, photographer
Years active1988–present

Sooni Taraporevala (born 1957) is an Indian screenwriter, photographer, and filmmaker who is the screenwriter of Mississippi Masala, The Namesake and Oscar-nominated Salaam Bombay!, all directed by Mira Nair.[1] She also adapted Rohinton Mistry's novel Such A Long Journey and wrote the films Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, her directorial debut Little Zizou, and Yeh Ballet, a Netflix original film that she wrote and directed.[2][3]

Taraporevala wrote the screenplay for and directed her first feature film, Little Zizou (2007), an ensemble piece set in Mumbai.[4][5] This film explores issues facing the Parsi community to which she belongs. It went on to win the Silver Lotus Award (2009) at the National Film Awards for Best Film on Family Values.[6]

She was awarded the Padma Shri by Government of India in 2014.[7] She is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Her photographs are in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) in Delhi and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Early life and education

Taraporevala was born to a Parsi family in Mumbai in 1957. Her granduncle had been a studio photographer in Bombay, and her father Rumi had been an amateur photographer.[8] She completed her schooling from Queen Mary School, Mumbai. Taraporevala got her first Instamatic camera at age 16.[8] She received a full scholarship to attend Harvard University as an undergraduate, where with a loan from a roommate she bought a Nikkormat camera, which was stolen upon her return to Bombay in the 1980s.[8] At Harvard she majored in English and American Literature, she took many film courses including filmmaking taught by Alfred Guzzetti.[9] Taraporevala met Mira Nair as an undergraduate, leading to their longtime creative collaboration. Next she joined the Cinema Studies Department at New York University, and after receiving her MA in Film Theory and Criticism, in 1981, she returned to India to work as a freelance still photographer.[10][11][12] Her early work from this period was shot on a Leica and her father's Nikon.[8] She returned to Los Angeles in 1988 and worked as a screenwriter, writing commissioned screenplays for a wide variety of studios including Universal, HBO and Disney. She moved back to India for good in 1992 where she lives with her husband Firdaus Batlivala and children Jahan and Iyanah.[8] Jahan and Iyanah Batlivala played the role of Xerxes and Liana respectively in Little Zizou.[13]


Taraporevala wrote the screenplays for Salaam Bombay! and Mississippi Masala, both directed by Mira Nair. Other projects with Nair include the screenplay for My Own Country, based on the book by Abraham Verghese, as well as The Namesake (2006), a cinematic adaptation of Pulitzer–winning writer Jhumpa Lahiri's novel, The Namesake.[7]

Her other produced credits include the film Such a Long Journey based on the novel Such a Long Journey by Rohinton Mistry and directed by Sturla Gunnarson, and the screenplay for the film Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, directed by Jabbar Patel for the Government of India and the National Film Development Corporation of India (NFDC).[citation needed]

In 2016 she directed a 14-minute documentary virtual reality film Yeh Ballet[14] for Anand Gandhi's Memesys Culture Lab.

In 2020 she wrote and directed a feature film based on her documentary. The Netflix Original film Yeh Ballet produced by Siddharth Roy Kapur and Roy Kapur Films can be seen on Netflix worldwide.


In 1982, during a break from college, she met photographer Raghubir Singh, who, after looking at her work, which included photographs of her extended Parsi family, suggested she work on a book about the Parsi community. This started her extensive work of photo documentation of the Parsi community.[9]

...she had the eye, the patience, the empathy of a seasoned portraitist; but she also had something even harder to find — a lifelong, unillusioned, affectionate closeness to an entire community whose numbers were dwindling with every passing year (Pico Iyer, in Home in the City, 2017).[8]

In 2000, she self-published Parsis, the Zoroastrians of India: a photographic journey, 1980-2000 about the traditionally closed off community since their persecution in Persia, the first and only visual documentation of the Parsi community.[15] An updated edition was published in 2004.[16]

Her photographs have been exhibited in India, the US, France and Britain, including London's Tate Modern gallery.[citation needed]

She has had solo shows at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University, Chemould Prescott Road in Mumbai and the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) in Delhi. Her work is in the permanent collections of the NGMA Delhi and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

In 2017/2018, the Whitworth in Manchester exhibited her photographic show Home in the City, Bombay 1977 – Mumbai 2017. It was selected by The Guardian as one of UK's top 5 shows.[citation needed]

A larger version of Home in the City with 102 photographs was exhibited at Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai, from 14 through 31 October 2017.[17] An accompanying book, Home in the city: Bombay 1977 – Mumbai 2017, was released with essays by Pico Iyer and Salman Rushdie.[18] It then traveled to the Sunaparanta, Goa Centre for the Arts in Altinho, Goa, opening there on 11 November 2017.[citation needed]


Year Film Director Writer Notes
1988 Salaam Bombay![19] No Yes
1991 Mississippi Masala[20] No Yes
1998 Such a Long Journey[21] No Yes
My Own Country No Yes Television film
2000 Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar[22] No Yes
2006 The Namesake[23] No Yes
2009 Little Zizou Yes Yes
2020 Yeh Ballet[24] Yes Yes




  1. ^ Viets, Alexandra (12 October 1994). "From Hollywood Back to Bombay". The New York Times.
  2. ^ "Such a Long Journey (Rohinton Mistry and Sturla Gunnarsson)", Images of Idiocy, Routledge, pp. 205–224, 2 March 2017, doi:10.4324/9781315252704-19, ISBN 978-1-315-25270-4, retrieved 6 December 2020
  3. ^ R.M. Vijayakar. "Sooni Taraporevala's 'Yeh Ballet' Nominated for Flyx Filmfare Awards". India West. Archived from the original on 2 December 2020. Retrieved 3 July 2023.
  4. ^ "The Serious Laugh Junkie". Tehelka. 7 March 2009. Archived from the original on 30 June 2010.
  5. ^ "Little Zizou, an insider's view to Parsi community". CNN-IBN. 27 February 2009. Archived from the original on 11 January 2012.
  6. ^ Ramachandran, Smriti Kak (19 March 2010). "President confers 56th National Film Awards". The Hindu.
  7. ^ a b Das, Soma (16 October 2015). "'Life's all about taking risks' : Filmmaker-author Sooni Taraporevala". Hindustan Times. Retrieved 19 October 2015.
  8. ^ a b c d e f Taraporevala, Soon (2017). Home in the City. Harper Collins and Sunaparanta Goa Centre for the Arts. pp. 5–11 and 118–125. ISBN 9789352773152.
  9. ^ a b Tree A. Palmedo (30 October 2012). "Portrait of an Artist: Sooni Taraporevala". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved 5 March 2013.
  10. ^ "Biography". Archived from the original on 20 August 2018. Retrieved 16 March 2010.
  11. ^ "I was called a rudderless ship". Tehelka. 16 October 2004. Archived from the original on 11 September 2012.
  12. ^ Sooni was everywhere, doing everything!, 6 April 2001.
  13. ^ "Iyanah Bativala". IMDb. Retrieved 23 March 2023.
  14. ^ "Yeh Ballet". YouTube. Archived from the original on 12 December 2021.
  15. ^ Taraporevala, Sooni (2000). Parsis, the Zoroastrians of India: a photographic journey, 1980-2000. Mumbai: Good Books. ISBN 9788190121606. OCLC 46352914.
  16. ^ Taraporevala, Sooni (2004). Parsis: the Zoroastrians of India: a photographic journey, 1980-2004. Woodstock, NY: Overlook Duckworth. ISBN 9781585675937. OCLC 1029371098.
  17. ^ Rodgers, Barry (12 October 2017). "From Bombay to Mumbai: Sooni Taraporevala's photographic tribute to the city she loves". Architectural Digest. India. Retrieved 20 April 2020.
  18. ^ Taraporevala, Sooni (2017). Home in the city: Bombay 1977 – Mumbai 2017. India: HarperCollins. ISBN 9789352773152.
  19. ^ "Godrej Typewriter Factory, Bombay".
  20. ^ "Mississippi Masala". Internet Movie Database.
  21. ^ "Sooni Taraporevala: Have shown religious harmony subtly in Yeh Ballet".
  22. ^ Perreire Hawkins, Blendine; Jackson, Melanie N. G. (April 2013), "The Namesake, Sooni Taraporevala", Journal of Feminist Family Therapy, pp. 135–137, doi:10.1080/08952833.2013.777876, S2CID 216136386
  23. ^ "The story of an iconic Indian family photograph". BBC News. 28 June 2016.
  24. ^ "Yeh Ballet". Internet Movie Database.
  25. ^ Salaam Bombay! - IMDb, retrieved 23 March 2023
  26. ^ "Venice Film Festival (1991)". IMDb. Retrieved 23 March 2023.
  27. ^ "Padma Awards Announced". Press Information Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs. 25 January 2014. Retrieved 26 January 2014.
  28. ^ "Academy invites record 774 new members; 39 percent female, 30 percent people color". The Hollywood Reporter. 29 June 2017. Retrieved 29 June 2017.