From Law to Hollywood

Author: Allison Griffith

Editor’s Note: This week’s Domer Diaries comes from Monica Patankar ’07 J.D., a partner with the law firm of Patankar Law P.C. and actress in the 2023 film Origin directed by Ava DuVernay.

Name: Monica Patankar
Class Year: 2007 J.D.
Residence Hall: Fischer Graduate Residences
Student Activities: Asian Law Students’ Association, Assistant Rector of Fischer Graduate Residences
Local Notre Dame club: ND Club of DuPage County

What was it like to appear in Origin and work with Ava DuVernay?

I am honored to have a speaking role in a film directed by Ava DuVernay, who is one of the most celebrated directors in Hollywood. One of my “pinch me” moments occurred when we were ready to film my scene and one of the production assistants brought in Ava’s director’s chair. That is when it hit me that this was really happening! I saw the movie in the theater with my family and it was amazing to watch my scene come to life as part of the whole movie.

Ava DuVernay smiling next to Monica Patankar.
Patankar (right) pictured with Ava DuVernay.

What do you hope viewers take away from watching this film?

The movie Origin is based on the book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Isabel WilkersonOrigin is intense, powerful, and leaves you with a strong message about how societies throughout history have operated with “hierarchies.” Women in prior generations did not have the same opportunities and I am proud to be an Indian-American woman in the practice of law.

As a Notre Dame graduate, are there any lessons or learnings from your time as a student that have contributed to your life since graduation?

The motto of Notre Dame Law School is “Educating a different kind of lawyer,” and I have certainly taken that to heart. As an assistant rector, I planned cultural and social events for students, such as Diwali Night and an Easter Egg Hunt. I also volunteered at St. Margaret's House in South Bend. Today, I represent my Indian heritage by performing Bollywood dance at festivals, serving as a volunteer for pro bono legal organizations, and I won the title of Miss Illinois for America 2019.


Originally published by Allison Griffith at on March 18, 2024.