Chef Vikas Khanna, Filmmaker Doug Roland’s ‘Barefoot Empress’ Premieres At Asia Society

Barefoot Empress: A Story of the Victory of the Human Spirit, written and directed by Vikas Khanna, renowned Michelin star chef, and produced by Oscar-nominated Doug Roland, premiered Sept. 13, 2022, at the Asia Society headquarters in New York (

This movie is produced in association with non-profits Leap to Shine and Global Fund for Widows.

The short documentary’s sold-out debut screening  had more than 250 attendees including industry professionals such as award-winning vocalist Ila Paliwal, India’s Consul General in New York, Randhir Jaiswal, UN ambassador for India, Ruchira Kamboj, entrepreneur and philanthropist MR Rangaswami from California, among others.

The film follows the remarkable journey of Karthyayani Amma, who finally gets a chance to join a first-grade class at the age of 96. Amma spent most of her life as a temple cleaner trying to make ends meet for her family, but when given the opportunity to educate herself, she pushed past societal norms and ended up a star student in her class. With a score of 98 percent on her exams, Amma dreams of studying up to grade 10.

“I am so honored to use my art and voice to inspire change,” Khanna if quoted saying in the press release. “By sharing Barefoot Empress with the world, I hope to spark conversations that create safer learning spaces and bring financial security to girls and women in India.”

Leap to Shine has named Amma a Global Ambassador and pledged to educate five million girls in India.  Khanna is an advisor to Leap to Shine.

“After having spent almost 25 years volunteering for non-profits, I have learnt that transparency, scalability, and impact are the key attributes to make a difference,” said Keyur Shah, director at Leap to Shine. “We achieve that using technology to create profound impact in the lives of those who have the drive to change their destiny with the power of digital learning.”

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