Filmmaker Shruti Ganguly's Breakout Moment

Isabel Evans

Shruti Ganguly has so many fabulous stories to tell. If you look at her work in production so far, the achievements are already outstanding: after making her name as a lead producer on films like Yosemite and The Color of Time, as well as content for MTV and Condé Nast, Shruti founded her own production company in 2017, Honto88. She’s currently developing a TV series with Meredith Koop—Michelle Obama’s stylist of the past nine years—on culture and politics through the lens of fashion.

But her most personal project, a screenplay called Priya, at 10 is perhaps her most exciting story yet.

“It’s a coming-of-age comedy about a girl called Priya who is 10, loves skateboarding, hip hop, and the Indian dance form Bharatanatyam,” she explains. “Priya exists in different worlds and cultures. Her story is not that different from my own. I studied Bharatanatyam and I skateboarded. My first internship in New York was with Island Def Jam when Jay-Z became president. So in a way, I found all these different things that I could infuse in Priya. I’m now trying to bring her to the outside world.”

While Shruti has much in common with her invented protagonist, it would not be a surprise if someone wrote a literal screenplay about her own life one day, given how colorful and unpredictable it’s been. Born in New Delhi, Shruti’s early life was spent in Oman before she went to Northwestern for college. She pondered a career in investment banking at one point until a life-altering tragedy changed her path.

“A cousin who I was very close to and lived vicariously through passed away in a car accident in India. I was 19. She had made the arts her career, and in a way I felt she was doing it for the both of us. Now she was no longer there. I was so lost and confused, and I realized I needed to ask myself what I wanted to be doing.”

This shattering experience pushed her to look at what she really loved: the arts. After taking a powerful class on women in Indian cinema, the world of filmmaking called her to spend her senior year on actual film sets in India. She fell in love with the magic of putting a film together, from the endless lights to the dramatic performances on and off camera. After graduating, it was on to New York where she devoured books on film at the Strand Bookstore and eventually got a dual MBA/MFA degree at NYU’s Stern and Tisch schools. Yes, Shruti can make you feel like a complete underachiever after you talk to her.

Given her life story thus far, it’s no surprise that she feels an urge to put spicier stories out into the world -- ones with new narratives and archetypes than the boring traditions that have become so familiar.

“We need to make more things that represent the world that we’re in. I don’t think I was comfortable to write Priya before, but I wanted to get a stage where I could write for her. I can’t wait to write characters that are set in Oman, ones that go to international boarding schools tucked away in Himalayas, eat Nepali noodles and Russian cheese, who are wary of wandering panthers. Those are the funny worlds I grew up and so many people have those stories as well.”

Who wouldn’t want to hear those stories? Thankfully, we shouldn’t have to wait long given all of Shruti’s upcoming projects. And most importantly, she’s not one to stop pursuing her goals even if at times they seem insurmountable.

“I’ve dealt with rejection, and I still deal with rejection. There are these moments where you feel you’re being slowed down, but you just have to break through. It’s hard sometimes, and it’s discouraging, but you are capable of taking them on ... that’s why you’re there. You’re going to grow from it.”

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Photographer: Delphine Diallo. Stylist: Danny Morales. Hair: Naoko Suzuki. Makeup: Chi Chi Saito. Creative Director: Khirma Eliazov.