Poorna Jagannathan is an American actress and producer best known for acting in the Bollywood film Delhi Belly opposite Imran Khan. She also initiated and produced the play Nirbhaya by Yael Farber which won the '2013 Amnesty International Award' and was called by The Telegraph as the "One of the most powerful pieces of theater you'll ever see".[2] Jagannathan was featured among the top 10 in Femina magazine's "India's 50 most beautiful women" in 2012 and in 2014, she was named among the top 50 most powerful women in India. [3]

Early life

The daughter of a diplomat, Jagannathan was born in Tunis, Tunisia but grew up in Pakistan, Ireland, India, Brazil and Argentina.[4] She began her college education at the University of Brasilia, Brazil but graduated in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park. On scholarship, she started her Master's from The Actor's Studio, one of the world's top drama schools,[5] but left after the first year.[6]


Jagannathan has appeared on several TV shows including House of Cards, Royal Pains, Law & Order, Rescue Me, and The Game.[7] Her film credits include Thanks For Sharing by Stuart Blumburg and in 2013, Jagannathan portrayed Riyana Sarai in the Ranbir Kapoor starrer Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. The movie has become the third highest grossing Bollywood film of all time in India and worldwide.[9] The film was written and directed by Ayan Mukerji and produced by Dharma Films.

Jagannathan is an established theater actress and is part of The Barrow Group in New York City. In 2012, Deadline.com reported that Jagannathan had joined the cast of HBO's new show The Night Of as a series regular. The ensemble cast was led by James Gandolfini and was written and directed by Steven Zaillian and Richard Price.[10] The project was shot at the end of 2012 but was shelved by HBO. It got revived in May 2013 and was slated to start shooting again with Gandolfini in 2014.[11] After Gandolfini's death, Oscar winner Robert De Niro initially stepped in to take over the role originally played by the beloved Sopranos star in the pilot.[2] Due to schedule conflicts, John Turturro replaced De Niro. Filming resumed August 2014 and ended in March 2015 in New York City. It is set to release on HBO on July 10th, 2016.

Moved by a sensational gang rape and murder in Delhi on December 16, 2012, Jagannathan initiated and co-produced a testimonial play called Nirbhaya ("Fearless", a pseudonym given to the victim).[2] The play uses the rape and death of Jyoti Singh Pandey as a catalyst to break the silence around sexual violence. She collaborated with internationally acclaimed playwright and director, Yael Farber.[2][2] Nirbhaya opened at the Assembly Hall in August 2013 during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.[2] It won the coveted 2013 Amnesty International Award as well as the Scotsman Fringe First and Herald Angel Awards. It got 5 star reviews from The Independent, The Telegraph and The Herald. It got 4 star reviews from The Times, The Scotsman, the London Evening Standard and Time Out. The Sunday Herald called Nirbhaya "One of the most powerful and urgent pieces of human rights theatre ever made".[2][2][2][2][2] In March 2014, Nirbhaya was the centerpiece performance for Southbank's "Women of the World" festival where it played to sold out houses in the UK. After a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund an India tour, Nirbhaya opened to critical acclaim in India on March 17, 2014, playing to sold out houses in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore.[3][3] In August 2014, The Guardian audiences voted Nirbhaya among the top 10 "best fringe moments" in the Edinburgh Festival's history.[3] Nirbhaya opened to rave reviews at The Culture Project in New York City in May 2015, and rose to become the NYT Critics' Pick.[3]

Jagannathan won critical acclaim for her role as a spunky, irreverent journalist in the film Delhi Belly. The Village Voice said "For all this censor-board razzing, the most enjoyably subversive element is Poorna Jagannathan as the self-sufficient bachelorette who waylays Tashi on his way to the altar. Rangy, corkscrew-haired, with a wary demeanor that can’t long be upset by anything, she’s a happy departure from the usual run of Xeroxed, pedestaled beauties."[3] Mumbai Mirror said, "Poorna Jagannathan, an offbeat choice, is remarkably subtle and does a brilliant job."[3] The Daily News and Analysis said that Jagannathan shines in the film, and that "her bohemian sex appeal" is "a refreshing change from the prim and proper 'heroine' we are used to watching."[3] The editor of Outlook Lounge said that Jagannathan's performance was a "masterclass in effortless acting".

For her performance in Delhi Belly, Jagannathan won the Stardust award for Best Supporting Actress [3] and the L'Oreal Femina Award for Breakthrough Performance in 2012.[3]

  • Jagannathan has been featured on the cover of Marie Claire, Femina, Jade and Exotica and covered in numerous publications like Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Elle, Cosmopolitan and Grazia.
  • In 2014, Verve Magazine named her among the top 50 most powerful women in India.[3]
  • She was featured in Vogue's October 2012 anniversary issue as one of 8 women who are changing the face of beauty in India.
  • Jagannathan was featured among the top 10 in Femina magazine's "India's 50 most beautiful women" in 2012.
  • Vogue included her in their list of most stylish women in 2012, 2014 and 2015.
  • Grazia awarded Jagannathan the "Best Dressed Award" for 2014.
  • She was ranked Most Fashionable Indian Woman by Cosmopolitan in their October 2013 and 2012 issues.
  • She was included in Verve's "2012's Best dressed Women" issue.
  • Italian Marie Claire named Jagannathan as one of the 12 women from the East impacting Western cinema in 2012[4]
  • She was included in Elle magazine's hot 100 list for 2011.
  • She was voted among the Top 50 Coolest Indians From Around The World for 2013 and 2011 by Desiclub.[4][4]

She is a brand ambassador for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in India.


YearFilm/TV series
2004Law & Order
2004She Hate Me
2005Law & Order
2005Johny Zero
2005The Weather Man
2005Modern Day Arranged Marriage
2006Love Monkey
2006Rescue Me
2006Law & Order
2008The Game
2009Karma Calling
2010–2011Royal Pains
2011Peace, Love and Misunderstanding
2011Delhi Belly
2013Thanks for Sharing
2013Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani
2014Good 'Ol Boy
2015House Of Cards[4]
2016The Circle
2016The Night Of


Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award 2013Winner
Scotsman Fringe First Award 2013Winner
Herald Angel Award 2013Winner
L'Oreal Femina Women Awards 2012Winner of Breakthrough Performance
10th Annual Kamala Pasand Max Stardust AwardsWinner of Breakthrough Supporting Performance (Female)
18th Annual Colors Screen AwardsNominated for Best Debut Actor (Female)
Zee Cine Awards 2012Nominated for Best Debut Actor (Female)
18th Annual Colors Screen AwardsNominated for Best Supporting Actor (Female)