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Parminder Nagra Height 5' 3" Born October 5 1975 in Leicester, Leicestershire, England, UK
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Parminder Nagra: Nagra was born to Sikh parents who
immigrated to the UK from the Punjab region of northern India in the late 1960s.
She is affectionately known as "Mindi". Her middle name, meaning "Princess," is
traditionally given to Sikh women (Sikh men traditionally have the middle name
"Singh."). Her family background was decidedly working class. Her father, Sukha,
a factory worker, is believed to have separated from her mother, Nashuter, a
packer in a factory, when Parminder was a child. Parminder, her two younger
brothers, and her younger sister were raised in a small terrace house in the
Belgrave district of Leicester by her mother and stepfather, who worked as a
bookkeeper at a cousin's transport company.
At the age of seven, Nagra suffered a burn that resulted in the scar shown in her 2002 breakout role in the internationally acclaimed film Bend It Like Beckham. While preparing a meal, a gas stove set her trousers alight. She was taken into the bathroom by an uncle and immersed in cold water. However, when the trouser fabric was removed, it took skin with it, resulting in a large scar on her right leg. The story was included into the film to explain the burn of Parminder's character (in the movie stating she was burned while making beans and toast).
Nagra attended Northfield House Primary School in Leicester. And it was at her comprehensive school, Soar Valley College, where she played viola in the youth orchestra and also appeared in her first theatrical productions.
In 1991, at the age of 16, Nagra took a job as an usher at the Leicester Haymarket Theatre, ostensibly to watch and learn from the local talent. Her former boss recalls her as brilliant, polite, and very sweet, but also that she was quiet, giving no hints as to her future rise to stardom.
"Falling into acting"
Not long after leaving school, and only a few months after sitting her A-levels, Nagra was approached by Jez Simons, her former drama instructor, about becoming part of Hathi Productions, a leading Leicester-based British Indian theatre company, for which he served as the artistic director. She accepted and was cast as a chorus member in the 1994 musical Nimai presented at the Leicester Haymarket. Only a week into rehearsals, she was plucked from the chorus to take the place of the lead actress who had dropped out. Simons recalls that Nagra, while a good singer and actress, had an intangible quality that raised her above other actresses and that led him to select her as the new lead. Nagra sometimes describes herself as having "fallen into" acting due to this unexpected turn of events.
The London years
Before she turned twenty, Nagra had left Leicester for London, forgoing university to pursue a theatrical career and her childhood dreams of becoming an actress. After selling her prized viola, she found herself living alone in Peckham, south London, employed in a stocktaking job and struggling to find theatrical work.
Nagra’s first London theatrical job came in 1994 when she was cast as the Princess in Sleeping Beauty, a Christmas-time pantomime production at the Theatre Royal Stratford East. Although most critics seemed rather unimpressed with the show, Nagra’s performance is notable in that she was a woman of colour portraying a traditionally white character.
After Sleeping Beauty, Nagra worked with small Indian theatre companies such as Tara Arts and Tamasha. The roles marked the first of many early career opportunities in theatre that led eventually to the radio and television appearances that also defined her career throughout most of the 1990s.
In 1996, Nagra took a small part in Fair Ladies at a Game of Poem Cards, written by Chikamatsu Monzaemon and performed at Cottesloe, Royal National Theatre. It was there that she met Irish actor Kieran Creggan, with whom she later moved into a flat in Kennington, south London. Their relationship continued for five years.
Although lacking formal theatrical training, Nagra signed on with veteran London-based agent Joan Brown, after which she began to land her first television roles — a bit part on the British medical drama Casualty, where she played a girl attacked with a broken bottle, and a small role in the television movie King Girl in which Nagra portrayed an abusive member of a girls' gang.
In 1997, Nagra appeared in the three-part drama Turning World, starring Roshan Seth. The following year she appeared on Casualty for the second time.
The year 1999 saw her playing the part of a convenience store clerk in the television movie Donovan Quick, starring Colin Firth. Also of note are appearances on the British Sub-continent comedy shows Goodness Gracious Me and The Kumars at No. 42.
While slowly building a reputation on British television, Nagra also dabbled in radio, with parts in, among others, radio plays written by noted author and playwright Tanika Gupta. In 1998, Nagra was part of Dancing Girls of Lahore, a radio play co-written by her future Bend It Like Beckham co-star, Shaheen Khan. In 2001, Nagra provided the voice of a Muslim girl in Arena: The Veil, a docu-drama about women who choose to wear the Muslim head scarf.
Although Nagra had cut her teeth in television and, to a lesser extent, in radio, her stage performances are perhaps the most noteworthy element in her corpus of work during her London years. Not long after the aforementioned Fair Ladies at a Game of Poem Cards, Nagra was cast in 1997's Oh Sweet Sita, an adaptation of Indian mythology about Rama and his dutiful wife Sita.
Starring in the title role of Sita, Nagra caught the attention of director Gurinder Chadha, who would later write the script for Bend It Like Beckham with Nagra in mind for the lead role. Although Chadha was charmed by Nagra, it would be five more years before the spectacular results of their collaboration would materialize.
Nagra's other notable stage roles during this period are many and include appearances in Skeleton (1997), with critical acclaim for her "bright-eyed vivacity" as the village girl; A Tainted Dawn (1997), playing a Hindu boy accidentally left in Pakistan and raised by a Muslim couple; Fourteen Songs, Two Weddings & A Funeral (1998), showing her skills as a romantic comedienne, also to critical acclaim; Krishna’s Lila — A Play of the Asian World (1999), as part of a five-person cast in a controversially titled piece; The Square Circle (1999), tackling the demanding role of an illiterate peasant girl who becomes a rape victim; and in River on Fire (2000), as Kiran, in a retelling of Sophocles' Antigone.
Although she was fast becoming a star on the stages of London, it was 2002's surprise blockbuster Bend It Like Beckham, Nagra’s first motion picture, that turned her into an international celebrity almost overnight.
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