Perspective: Star in Her Own Right; Bend It like Beckham Actress Archie Panjabi Was Hailed as a 'Shooting Star' at the Berlin Film Festival. Organised by European Film Promotion, It Is a Platform to Introduce Europe's Brightest New Acting Talent. Archie Spoke to Alison Jones at the Festival to Discuss Her Career and Her Fight for Equal Recognition for Asian Actors

The Birmingham Post (England), March 19, 2005 | Go to article overview

Perspective: Star in Her Own Right; Bend It like Beckham Actress Archie Panjabi Was Hailed as a 'Shooting Star' at the Berlin Film Festival. Organised by European Film Promotion, It Is a Platform to Introduce Europe's Brightest New Acting Talent. Archie Spoke to Alison Jones at the Festival to Discuss Her Career and Her Fight for Equal Recognition for Asian Actors


Byline: Alison Jones

'My dream in those days was to be in EastEnders because there were Asian people in EastEnders. When you looked at cinema it wasn't even a dream because it was unreachable.'

Times have changed since Archie Panjabi was starting out as an actress a decade ago. British Asian stars and directors seem to be enjoying a golden period of productivity while EastEnders token Asian family, the Ferreras, might yet consider themselves lucky they are being axed from a soap looking perilously close to the chop itself.

Archie, 32, starred in two of the films that really seemed to signal a new dawn for British Asians talent. She played the daughter of a white mother and Pakistani father in the seventies set comedy East is East, and was Parminder Nagra's sister whose wedding was threatened by her sibling's tomboyish desire to play football in Bend it Like Beckham.

Hits both at home and abroad, they led to Bend it director Gurinder Chadha being embraced by Hollywood where she has just made the Jane Austen meets Bollywood comedy Bride and Prejudice.

Parminder Nagra is now one of the stars of ER while Jimi Mistry, who played one of Archie's many brothers in East, romanced Heather Graham and Marisa Tomei while pretending to be a mystical sex therapist in The Guru.

'It is fantastic that this 'golden period' is happening. A lot of the talent that hasn't been used for the past ten years has suddenly come to the forefront and just gone wild,' says Archie 'But I feel there is a slight danger of it being over exploited, particularly the cultural cliches - the conflict genre I call it,' she adds cautiously.

'I think Bend it Like Beckham did a wonderful job but it is time to move on. What you saw in that is wonderful but it is the eighties. Our parents have lived in England for more years now than they have lived in their own country, we need to see that reflected.

'That is why a lot of soaps don't quite hit the right note with Asian communities because they don't get it quite right. And I think people like myself, British Asians continue to give them the curry if you like, they kind of spice it all up, making the gags because they think that is what you want rather than the authentic real stories which I think are so much more interesting.'

Stories like Yasmin in which Archie, whose real name is Archana, plays an English born Muslim girl whose life is changed irrevocably by 9/11.

Colleagues start to treat her with suspicion regarding her as a terrorist simply because of her religion.

One day they are inviting her for a drink down thepub, the next children are pelting her with eggs and racial abuse in the street 'This was an important film with an important message. It got people talking at dinner parties, it really was a point of conversation.

'I got a lot of Hindus come up to me after it was screened on television saying it had really changed the way they felt about Muslims. That beats any award. Of course they are great for your ego but so unimportant when you make a change like that.'

Since completing it she has found it hard to take on roles which she does not feel she could give as much to or would not find as challenging.

'I'd hate anybody to think I was a role model, as a person I have too many faults,' she smiles. 'But I do feel I have a platform now to vocalise how I feel about the way we should be going as a community and the way we are reflected.

'I am still not seeing the changes I would like. I would like to create them. It takes a long time to write and put projects together but ultimately that would be my ambition.'

Though it would be easy to hold up Parminder and Jimi as standard bearers for British Asian actors in America, theirs is not necessarily a path that Archie wants to follow and believes that, in spite ofappearances to the contrary, the colour of their skin is still holding them back. …

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Perspective: Star in Her Own Right; Bend It like Beckham Actress Archie Panjabi Was Hailed as a 'Shooting Star' at the Berlin Film Festival. Organised by European Film Promotion, It Is a Platform to Introduce Europe's Brightest New Acting Talent. Archie Spoke to Alison Jones at the Festival to Discuss Her Career and Her Fight for Equal Recognition for Asian Actors
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