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'Beckham' Star Kicks Up Success

The Early Show, Parminder Nagra
CBS/The Early Show
Since its American debut in April, "Bend It Like Beckham" has become the sleeper hit of the spring. The British film stars Parminder Nagra as a young girl named Jesminder who follows her dream of becoming a soccer player against the wishes of her very strict Indian parents. The film is a dream come true for Nagra, with one notable exception.

She says, "I've never played soccer before, wasn't even interested in playing soccer before. It was something that I had to learn for the film and enjoyed the process of learning it and enjoyed watching it and occasionally kicking the ball around but I'm not a big fan of football, soccer."

While Nagra isn't a soccer fan, the film does have a few parallels to her own Indian upbringing in London, but Nagra is quick to point out that this family is strictly fictitious.

Nagra says, "My kind of argument is THAT family in THAT film. It's not a representative of every single Asian family across the world. And I'd hate for it to be that. It's actually a feel-good movie; it's there to feel good and make you laugh."

She tells The Early Show entertainment contributor Jess Cagle what has made this film resonate with audiences is its universal themes.

Nagra says, "To me the film is about dreams and aspirations and going for what you want, as opposed to most people trying to pigeonhole the film in a particular way and say, 'It's a soccer film' and some guys may say 'It's a chick flick and I don't want to see a chick flick' and nobody can quite pigeonhole it in a particular way. It actually isn't any of those things, it actually has a bigger message to it."

And because of that, Nagra has become a new role model for Indian women who have seen the film. She says she has gotten emails from a variety of people. She says, "I think it's an important film for young women and, you know, we all aspire to something and sometimes people lose that focus and go, 'Well, you know, I haven't got the choice' or 'I haven't got the potential' or 'I can't go for it' and I think one of the messages of this film is that absolutely you can go for it IF you believe in yourself."

The film's peculiar title refers to Nagra's character's obsession with British soccer superstar David Beckham (and his ability to bend the ball). While Beckham did not participate in the film, Nagra did get to meet him and his wife, former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham, at a screening.

Nagra says, "I actually sat behind them and was very nervous and for the very first time thought - I was kind of watching the football - I kind of thought, 'Here is the England captain sitting and watching something that he has been perfecting for years,' which is bending the ball, which is what I have to do in the movie. But he was really gracious at the end of it."

So what is bending the ball?

Laughing, Nagra explains, "Bending the ball is when you slice the ball with the side of your foot which is between the toe and the instep. And you think that the ball is going to go in one particular direction, but it doesn't. It does a clever little curve and hopefully ends up in the goal."

American audiences will be seeing a lot more of Parminder Nagra in the fall; she has signed on to be a new regular on the hit series "ER."