Coconut Girl

A love letter to my mother, and all the Indian women who have come before me

Project type: Fiction Short
Project status: Production
Writer/Director/Producer: Ayesha Agarwal
Producer: Madison Stewart Leonard
Producer: Kavin Kapoor
Help independent filmmakers tell their stories.
Make a donation to Coconut Girl today.

Film Independent’s Fiscal Sponsorship program opens the door to nonprofit funding for independent filmmakers and media artists. Donate today and help bring Coconut Girl to life.



7-year-old Swetha, the child of Indian immigrants, is harassed at school by classmate Bobby and his henchmen for using coconut oil in her hair. Swetha’s mother, Supriya, watches her daughter grow increasingly withdrawn and agrees to end the oiling to help her daughter assimilate. At the cost of her heritage, Swetha, finally free to be American, makes a friend only to learn that her and her classmates might not be as different as she thought.


Young Swetha carefree when she’s with her mother, Supriya. By contrast, she feels cautious and alone at school, where she is bullied by classmate Bobby and his henchmen, who call her smelly because of her coconut-oiled hair. One of Bobby’s supporters is Megan, a soft-spoken girl who clings to her crew for safety.

Supriya notices her beloved daughter grow increasingly somber and withdrawn. Left in the dark, she struggles with how to help. One day, overcome with frustration, Swetha refuses to let her mom oil her hair. Emboldened by her actions, she rebels against Bobby and gains Megan’s admiration. When Supriya tries to oil her hair again, Swetha screams and runs away. Sobbing in her bed, she lets on that she’s made a friend. Supriya, understanding the pain of assimilation, agrees to end the oiling.

Supriya drives Swetha to her first playdate, where Swetha eagerly runs to Megan. Megan’s mom gives Supriya an icy smile, and Supriya drives away. Swetha and Megan play with a Barbie dollhouse. Swetha uses the bathroom and, as she’s washing her hands, looks to the bathtub. She cocks her head to the side. The camera zeroes in on the text beneath the brand name of the conditioner bottle, which reads “Now with coconut oil for added shine!”.

Meet the Filmmakers

Ayesha Agarwal – Writer/Director/Producer
Ayesha Agarwal is a filmmaker, affordable housing developer and first-generation American based in Los Angeles. Born in Oregon, raised in Singapore and ethnically Indian, Ayesha draws on this multicultural perspective to nuance the way we internalize the human experience. Her work explores universal themes governing society, such as sexuality, mortality, power, and progress, from the lenses of immigration and globalization. Ayesha has a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics from Columbia University.

Madison Stewart Leonard – Producer
Madison Stewart Leonard is a writer/director from Connecticut. The youngest of four girls, she had no choice but to relocate to Los Angeles. She was awarded IMDb’s 2020 New Filmmaker Award for her 2020 short film debut, Flush Lou. She recently completed her MFA in Film & TV Production at the USC School of Cinematic Arts, where she wrote, directed and produced her second film, I’m Todor. I Mean, Bill (USC First Look recipient). Madison holds a Bachelor of Arts from Cornell University.

Kavin Kapoor – Producer
Kavin Kapoor is a filmmaker and graduate from the USC School of Cinematic Arts. Raised in Singapore and based in LA, he has worked as a motion capture artist for PlayStation, a VR developer for Alex McDowell’s World Building Media Lab, and an AR technician at Meta. He currently works as a trained specialist at the Robert Zemeckis Center for Digital Arts on their LED volume.

Make a donation to Coconut Girl


For inquiries, please contact