'Indian cinema is getting global'
Los Angeles-based Namrata Cooper says her audition for Sanjay Gupta's Kaante was akin to a beauty pageant. She read for the role four times; each was a shortlisting process. "The first round was with the casting director, then on-camera, and finally for the producers and director, first in English and then in Hindi."
Namrata plays Kumar Gaurav's wife in Kaante, which revolves around a bank heist. Ask why she chose the film and she says, "It is not a huge role, but they were happy with what I could bring to the table. I was the first female lead to be signed on."
"In Hollywood I am known to make good choices and be bold about my roles. I am not particularly stuck up about playing a glamour doll. I want to play roles that have something beyond looking good and mouthing a dialogue."
This acting graduate from the University of West Florida wasn't awed by the big names in the film. "I was honoured to be acting with stalwarts like Amitabh Bachchan and Sanjay Dutt. Eventually, it was all about working on my role and doing my bit. Once I am on the sets I am a professional. Once I finished with my work I would hang out in my trailer reading more scripts. It was a professional setup. The setup was almost as good as any other Hollywood setup."
"Also," she adds, "the crew was from Hollywood -- makeup, hair, backstage, production. I had interacted with them before."
"Initially, Kaante was not supposed to have any songs. Although I wouldn't be uncomfortable because I am a trained dancer."
Namrata spent a large part of of her growing years in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh. She left India as a teenager and lived in the Middle East and UK for a while before moving to the US to study film and television. "I speak fluent Hindi, English, Urdu and Punjabi," she reveals.
The last two years have seen her working for Hollywood producers like Wolfgang Petersen, Shaun Cassidy, Michael Frost Beckner, Mikael Solomon, Paul Michael Glaser and Fred Gerber. She is also a familiar face on American prime time. She plays the recurring role of Fari Bin Ghari on the CBS drama, The Agency. She received good reviews for her work in the Columbia Tristar drama, Family Law Security, where she starred as Saira Ahmed. She is also a familiar face for US daytime viewers. She has been essaying the role of Nurse Kathy on NBC's Passions since January 2001.
"I got a lot of praise for my role in Family Law Security. It is tough for South Asians to break into Hispanic-dominated Hollywood, but we are trying," says the actress who loves scuba diving, running and swimming.
She is currently visiting Mumbai to meet Bollywood directors who have been in touch via email and trans-Atlantic calls. "I had people emailing me about their future projects. I am thinking, looking, meeting... trying to make wise choices."
"If there is a project I will definitely come to India," she says. "I have yet to find out what Bollywood is like. Having seen Monsoon Wedding I know I want to be part of interesting projects. These are very exciting times for artistes like me who can cross over from Hollywood to Bollywood, because Indian cinema is getting global."
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