Budding striker gets kicking
There are football films, there are twists on football films, then there’s Bend It Like Beckham, in which the budding striker is a British Asian girl whose parents would prefer her to be making chapatis. So 26-year-old Parminder Nagra’s joy at playing the lead in Gurinder Chadha’s film was slightly diluted by the fact that she would actually have to learn to play football.
Before now the Leicester-born actress has appeared in stage musicals and in television programmes.
Perhaps she’s due for a transfer.
So how did you get the part?
I met Gurinder about four years ago, she’d seen me in a play called O Sweet Sita. And then a couple of years later she approached me about this film, but it wasn’t until a year after that that a script arrived. I did the audition, but at the end she told me she’d wanted me to play this part all along.
So you didn’t have to do a penalty shoot out or anything?
Did you have any prior footballing skills?
Not really. I hadn’t played any football at all to be honest. They had to put us all into boot camp for a few weeks.
How did you learn?
It was the Brazilian method, called Futebol de Salao. It teaches you a lot of flashy moves but it’s not that easy. There were times when I got frustrated and the ball wouldn’t do exactly what I wanted it to.
Was it hard work?
I stay quite fit so in that aspect it was just making sure my stamina was up to it because I knew the schedule was just going to be mad. I can appreciate just what footballers have to go through now. But a match is 90 minutes and we were nine hours a day shooting and running around the pitch. And not only have you got to contend with the football, you’ve got a camera to get in front of!
Did you actually play matches?
We played the German women’s team that we play in the film. By then we felt like a proper team, so when we got to Germany, our girls really wanted to beat them. We just wanted Gurinder to switch off the camera and let us have a good game. She was there shouting, “Cut! Cut!”, and no one was listening, we just kept on playing. And the crew were really into it, cheering us on.
Do you think there are girls out there in a similar situation to your character’s?
I think it’s probably true for a lot of families that the parents think they know what their kids should do. Even our parents probably went through the same thing. I think this film is different because we actually appreciate where the parents are coming from, and what they had to go through. But I don’t think that’s specific to any one culture. It’s not just like, “Oh, poor Indian girl”. It’s across the board.
Did you you get to meet the real Beckham?
Not on the set, only digitally, but I met him after a private screening in Manchester recently.
What did you say?
It was at the end of the film. I just walked past him but he stopped me and said, you know, well done. I don’t think he’d known what to expect when he went in, but I think he was quite warmed by it.
Where would you like to go next, Hollywood or Bollywood?
I would never say never to either of them. I could happily do both, it depends on the projects. There’s naff stuff coming out of both and there’s great stuff coming out of both, so, whatever.
Bend It Like Beckham opens this week