Sooni Taraporevala was born and schooled in Bombay, India. In 1975 she received a scholarship to attend Harvard University as an undergraduate. At Harvard she studied English Literature, Film and Photography. After her BA from Harvard she received her MA in Cinema Studies (Film Theory and Criticism) from New York University returning to India to pursue professional photography. Her first screenplay began her long creative association with Mira Nair her friend and classmate from Harvard. Salaam Bombay! was nominated for an Academy award, won more than twenty-five awards worldwide, and earned Taraporevala the Lillian Gish Award for Excellence in Film from Women in Film, Los Angeles. Sooni lived in Los Angeles, became a member of the Writers Guild of America and was one of India’s first screenwriters working in the international space. She was commissioned to write screenplays for a variety of studios — HBO, Universal, Disney, Warner Brothers. Her second produced screenplay, Mississippi Masalaalso for Mira Nair, was made into a film starring Denzel Washington for which Taraporevala won the Osella award for Best Screenplay at the Venice Film Festival. Thirty years later in 2021 a restored 4K print of Mississippi Masala was screened at the New York Film Festival, and is slated for a theatrical release again along with a DVD and streaming release by Criterion. Her other produced screenplays include The Namesake, based on the book by Jhumpa Lahiri; Such A Long Journey, based on the book by Rohinton Mistry for which she received a Genie nomination for Best Screenplay from the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television; My Own Country based on the book by Dr Abraham Verghese; Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar based on historical research.
Photo by Supriya Kantak / Netflix
She wrote and directed her first feature film, Little Zizou, a comedy about serious issues, set in her own Parsi community. The film won a National Award from the Indian government as well as many other international awards. Her second feature-length film as writer/director Yeh Balletwas picked up by Netflix to be a leading piece on its direct-to-digital feature slate. Produced by Siddharth Roy Kapur it was critically acclaimed and also noticed and lauded by Reed Hastings & Salman Rushdie. Her photographs have been part of photography exhibitions around the world including The Tate Modern, London, Institut Valencia d’Art Modern, Spain, The Photographer’s Gallery and the Horizon Gallery, London, Lille, France and the Musee de Quai Branly, Paris. The author and publisher of a seminal photography book PARSIS A Photographic Journey, her company Good Books partnered with Overlook Press in NY to co-publish the 2nd edition. Both editions are now out of print.In 2017 Harper Collins published her book Home in the City - which contains her black and white photos of Bombay/Mumbai from 1977-2017. Her photographs are in collections and museums including the National Gallery of Modern Art, Delhi and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. In 2014 she was conferred the Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian award, by the President of India. In 2017 she was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. She lives in Mumbai with her husband Dr Firdaus Bativala; they have two children Jahan Bativala and Iyanah Bativala, three dogs and one cat.