For the past year, The Eisenthal Report has occaisionally commented on Parminder Nagra, the British actress (of Punjabi descent), who has an ongoing role in the NBC drama ER, and who came to international prominence in the movie, Bend it Like Beckham.
This observer believes that Ms. Nagra is both exceptionally beautiful and an all but singularly talented actress. As I wrote in March, I believe that Parminder Nagra
is one of the most beautiful women active in media that are full of beautiful women. Beyond her stunning beauty, Nagra is notable because she has one of the greatest natural acting talents of any actor or actress now active in movies and television in this country and Europe. Her talent as an actress is comparable to that of Sarah Vaughan as a singer, Ted Williams as a baseball hitter, or David Beckham as a soccer scorer.
I also wrote that
With luck and a willingness to pay the price that Hollywood demands, I believe that she could become one of the iconic actresses of the first half of the 21st century – much as Ingrid Bergman was in the middle decades of the 20th.
So far, Ms. Nagra's progress toward the shores of Iconia has been slow. ER is about to start its 14th season - Nagra's fourth on the program. While ER has been a major boost to Nagra's career, her role on the show is still relatively minor. She seems usually to appear in about one or two minutes of every hour-long episode. (Don't blink; you'll miss her.) It doesn't help matters that ER as a series is tired. The writing on the show, in particular, has lately been mediocre, at best. It has not lately had the edge or the skill that scripts in the early years of the series had. An example of this is the story arc that involved Forest Whitaker playing the character Curtis Ames. The climactic scene involving Ames and Dr. Luka Kovac (Goran Visnjic), in the episode titled Murmurs of the Heart, should have been great television. Whitaker and Visnjic are first-rate actors; with a first-rate script, the episode could have been among the best on television last season. Instead, the episode - and particularly the climactic scene - was full of clumsy action and unbelievable dialogue - not worthy of Whitaker and Visnjic (pronounced VISH-nyich) as actors.
It is not clear that ER will continue beyond this season - and a series cancellation could well be a good thing for Parminder Nagra. She would be freer to pursue more substantial projects that are worthier of her beauty and talent. The question is whether she will be well-positioned to sign on to those more worthy projects. For this observer, the answer is far from clear.
An indication of the obstacles she may face could be seen with the film, In Your Dreams, which was screened during this year's Cannes Film Festival. I have not seen the film, but from the synopses provided it seemed to be both charming and funny - not blockbuster material, but potentially a film that could acquire a following in the smaller arthouse cinemas in the United States and elsewhere - much as The Namesake (a very different kind of film) did earlier this year. Instead, In Your Dreams went nowhere - at least in the United States. It seems to this observer that an opportunity was missed here.
A new film starring Nagra and Naveen Andrews, Sayeed in the ABC series Lost, has been announced. Fallen Hero will be the story of a soldier returning from war and trying to adjust to civilian life in his Indian village. Filming is supposed to take place later this year; at the earliest, the release will be sometime next year. This observer hopes that this project will be artistically and commercially successful. One misgiving about this project for Nagra is that it does nothing to break her out of the confines of ethnicity. I believe that Nagra's appeal ultimately could transcend her South Asian background - broadly appealing to the diverse populations of the Americas, Europe, and beyond.
Perhaps it reflects an unrealistic and impatient stance to expect to see faster progress for Parminder Nagra's career. I am not in the entertainment industry; much of what is written here may reflect an enthusiastic naivete about how things work in the movie business. However, I know what I like - and I think that if I like Parminder Nagra as I do, then she has the potential for a much greater following as a movie star. So far, if anything, her career seems to be moving far too slowly, if not stagnating. In recent days, her "stock" on the Hollywood Stock Exchange (HSX) was delisted. A spokesman for HSX, "Macdaddy," wrote in an e-mail that Parminder Nagra was delisted because she has not had a theatrical film release in the United States in the past three years. HSX has been increasingly taken seriously as a measure of the star power - and box-office potential - of movies, actors, and directors. This delisting is certainly not a positive sign for Ms. Nagra, although we can hope that once Fallen Hero is released, she will be relisted - and her value will begin to rise again.
And so I return to the title of this piece - a message for Parminder Nagra's publicist and agent - you can do better! How can they do better? From my naive point of view, isolated from the nerve centers of the entertainment industry (I sit about as far from Hollywood as it is possible to be in the United States), I think that she needs to engage her current fans - and attract new ones - using all media at her disposal. One medium that she might engage more is the Internet. There is already a "Parminder Nagra infrastructure" on the Net - Parminder Nagra Online (PNO), for example, is run by dedicated fans of hers. She and her professional handlers should engage PNO to reach out to her fan base. Perhaps she and her handlers should also consider an official website, like the one that her ER colleague John Stamos has. Ms. Nagra's professional handlers need to create more "buzz" about the actress - to attract more attention from fans and producers. This observer believes that this can be done without turning Ms. Nagra into Britney Spears or Paris Hilton. Most of all, her professional handlers need to believe - really believe - in Parminder Nagra's potential. To their credit, they have helped bring her far from her roots in Leicester, England. They can - if they really believe - bring her much further - to a level achieved by only a few in the history of cinema. In the end, you must remember this - Parminder Nagra has the beauty and the talent - she only needs the opportunity.
UPDATE, September 29: On Thursday night, the 27th, NBC showed the 14th season premiere of ER. Parminder Nagra played an important if not extensive part in this episode - as she had in last season's finale. Most of what we saw of Neela Rasgotra - Nagra's character - was her internal organs, but we did see an example of one thing that makes Parminder Nagra an extraordinary actress - her eyes. Nagra was able to communicate more with her eyes than most of the other actors were able to communicate in paragraphs of dialogue.
Following the show, NBC held an on-line chat with Nagra and Dr. Joe Sachs, one of the series' writers. It was good to see this chat - there was very good engagement between an actress and her fans. One can hope to see more of this kind of engagement - with fans and potential fans - that will help build Parminder Nagra to the stardom which she should be able to achieve.