Bend It Like Beckham
Actress Parminder K. Nagra rose to international prominence thanks to her starring turn as Jess Bhamra on the Gurinder Chadha successful film “Bend It Like Beckham” (2002). The role brought the actress a Bordeaux International Festival of Women Award for her performance. After the success, she enjoyed fame in Hollywood with her role of Doctor Neela Rasgotra on the popular series “ER,” which she played from 2003 until the show ended in 2009. She was nominated for a Teen Choice Award for her performance. Nagra began her career on stage in her hometown of Leicester, England, in 1994 and soon headed to London, where she made her debut in the pantomime “Sleeping Beauty.” She has since created a reputation for herself as a tough, versatile actress.
In 1996, Nagra met Irish actor Kieran Creggan on the set of “Fair Ladies at a Game of Poem Cards” and they soon became an item. Their relationship ended after five years. She went on to develop a long running romance with photographer James Stenson, whom she eventually married in January 2009. She is the mother of Kai David Singh Stenson (born in May 2009).
Childhood and Family:
Nicknamed Mindi, Parminder Kaur Nagra was born on October 5, 1975, in Leicester, England, to Sukha and Nashuter Nagra. Her parents moved from India to the U.K. in the 1960s, but they separated when Mindi was a small child. Her mother later married a bookkeeper, who helped raise Mindi and her three younger siblings (two boys and one girl). The family lived in a small house in the Belgrave district of Leicester. Mindi enrolled at the Northfield House Primary School in Leicester and then the Soar Valley College, a comprehensive secondary school in Leicester. While at Soar Valley College, she joined the youth orchestra as a violinist. She later decided to pursue a dual degree in music and drama at college and it was during this time that she starred in a musical. Subsequently, she dropped her plan to further pursue her education in order to act.
On January 17, 2009, Nagra married photographer James Stenson. Their first child, son Kai David Singh Stenson, was born on May 19, 2009.
At the urging of her former drama instructor, Parminder K. Nagra joined the Leicester based theatre company Hathi Productions and was cast as a chorus member in a 1994 musical called “Nimai.” Only a week into rehearsals, the lead actress dropped out and Nagra was selected to take her place. She then moved to London to pursue acting full time.
Nagra made her London stage debut as the Princess in “Sleeping Beauty” (1994) at the Theatre Royal Stratford East. She went on to work with small Indian theatre companies like Tara Arts and Tamasha. Still in 1994, she also appeared in “The 6th Wonder of the World: the Kali Tutti Story.” In 1996, Nagra landed a small part in Chikamatsu Monzaemon's “Fair Ladies at a Game of Poem Cards.” In the play, she worked with Irish actor and soon-to-be boyfriend Kieran Creggan.
Her television acting debut arrived when she landed a bit part in an episode of the British medical drama “Casualty” called “Land of Hope” (also 1996). The same year, she also appeared as an abusive member of a girls' gang in the British TV film “King Girl,” which was shown in the U.S. at the New York Lesbian and Gay Film Festival on June 6, 1998. Directed by Sam Miller and starring Louise Atkins, Maxine Campling and Angela Forrest, the film received a Rosebud nomination for Best Film at the 1998 Verzaubert - International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival.
1997 saw the actress portray Sabina in the British drama “Turning World,” starring Art Malik, Roshan Seth and Paul Bhattacharjee. The next year, she returned to “Casualty” for an episode called “Next of Kin” and played various characters on the British sketch comedy series “Goodness Gracious Me.” She also worked on “Dancing Girls of Lahore,” a radio play co-written by Shaheen Khan, her future costar on “Bend It Like Beckham.” In 1999, she appeared in the short film “Park Stories,” by Smita Bhide, and in the TV film “Donovan Quick,” with Colin Firth, David Brown and Ricky Callan. “Donovan Quick” was nominated for a BAFTA TV for Best Single Drama and a RTS Television Award in the same category.
On stage, Nagra appeared in several productions, including “Skeleton” (1997), “Tainted Dawn” (1997), “Fourteen Songs, Two Weddings & A Funeral” (1998), “A Play of the Asian World” (1999) and “The Square Circle” (1999, a controversial play by director Timeri Murari. However, it was her portrayal of Sita in “Oh Sweet Sita” (1997) that attracted the attention of director Gurinder Chadha, who would later cast the actress in her breakout film role.
In 2000, Nagra had a guest spot in the long running British dramatic series “Holby City” and portrayed Kiran in a stage production of “River on Fire,” a retelling of Sophocles' “Antigone.” She then played Ishbel McDonald in “Exacting Justice” (2001), an episode of the BBC crime series “Judge John Deed,” starring Martin Shaw, and provided the voice of a Muslim girl in “Arena: The Veil,” which was about women who decide to wear the Muslim head scarf.
After having an unaccredited part in the British TV thriller “The Swap” (2002), Nagra enjoyed a big breakthrough when she received the lead role of Jesminder “Jess” Bhamra in Chadha's “Bend It Like Beckham,” opposite Keira Knightley as Juliette “Jules” Paxton and Archie Panjabi as “Pinky” Bhamra. As an 18 year old who revolts against her traditional parents in order to play soccer, she won a Golden Wave for Best Actress at the 2002 Bordeaux International Festival of Women in Cinema, a British Independent Film nomination for Most Promising Newcomer, an Empire nomination for Best Newcomer and an Audience Award nomination for Best Actress at the 2002 European Film Awards. Released in the U.K. on April 11, 2002, and the U.S. on August 1, 2003, “Bend It Like Beckham” was met with generally positive reviews from critics and was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy. It was also a commercial success.
Nagra next guest starred in the British series “Always and Everyone” (2002) and as Viola in a television movie adaptation of Shakespeare's play, “Twelfth Night, or What You Will” (2003), opposite Ronny Jhutti and Chiwetel Ejiofor. In the critically acclaimed two part British miniseries “Second Generation” (2003), based on Shakespeare's “King Lear,” she received an EMMA for Best Television Actress for her work. She also portrayed Areida, a friend of Anne Hathaway's character, in “Ella Enchanted” (2004), a family movie directed by Tommy O'Haver. The film also starred Hugh Dancy and Cary Elwes.
After the success of “Bend it Like Beckham,” Nagra received the reoccurring role of County General Hospital medical intern Neela Rasgotra on the popular medical series “ER.” Her character was introduced in an episode called “Now What,” which aired on September 25, 2003. In 2004, she was nominated for a Teen Choice in the category of Choice Breakout TV Star - Female. Nagra stayed with the show until it ended on April 2, 2009.
Meanwhile, in 2005, Nagra's voice could be heard in the animated short “Maya the Indian Princess,” for director Kavita Ramchandran. Three years later, she costarred with Dexter Fletcher in the British comedy film “In Your Dreams,” by director/writer Gary Sinyor, portrayed Anjika Indrani in the British TV film “Compulsion,” starring Ray Winstone, and provided the voice of Cassandra in the direct-to-video animated film “Batman: Gotham Knight,” which starred the voice of Kevin Conroy as Batman/Bruce Wayne.
Nagra will play Miss Lovely in the upcoming comedy feature “Horrid Henry: The Movie,” based on a fictional character created by Francesca Simon. The film is scheduled to be released in 2011, with Nick Moore as the film’s director. Other cast members will include Anjelica Huston, Richard E. Grant and Theo Stevenson.
Ethnic Multicultural Media Award (EMMA): Best Television Actress, “Second Generation,” 2004
Bordeaux International Festival of Women in Cinema: Golden Wave, Best Actress (Meilleure Comédienne Long Métrage), “Bend It Like Beckham,” 2002