Jess Bhamra

When I saw Bend It Like Beckham for the first time ten years ago, I laughed so hard, I never thought I’d recover. Thankfully, I did and now I’m able to tell you about the star character for Women Who Wow Wednesday. Her name is Jesminder “Jess” Kaur Bhamra (Parminder Nagra) and she likes football—soccer here in North America. She likes watching it. Playing it. Breathing it. She’s a regular fan.

Parminder Nagra & Keira Knightley
Parminder Nagra & Keira Knightley

One day, Juliette “Jules” Paxton (Keira Knightley) watches her play against the boys and she decides to approach her about an offer that may very well change her life. Jules wants Jess to come along and have a trial with the Hounslow Harriers, an all-girls football team. Jess doesn’t know what to say. She asks Jules if she thinks she’s good enough. Of course Jess is good enough, otherwise Jules wouldn’t have asked her.

There’s one problem. Jess is Indian playing English football. Under normal circumstances, this would be acceptable, but Jess’ parents are very strict about what their daughter can and can’t do with her life. One thing she can’t do is play and horseplay with the boys in the park. This is off limits. They also do not like their daughter to wear shorts, which amounts to revealing too much of herself to the opposite sex. In other words, they do not like her “running around half naked in front of men”. Did I mention her parents are strict? Yeah.

Parminder Nagra as Jess Bhamra
Parminder Nagra as Jess Bhamra

Adding to Jess’ list of “things I hate my parents do to me when I want to do something else,” her mom wants her to learn how to make a full Punjabi dinner—meat and vegetarian. Her parents wouldn’t be able to show their face in the temple otherwise. Did I mention that her parents also forbid her to continue with her football career? They want her to start acting like a real woman, settle down, think about the future and kids, just like her unhappy sister who also follows their traditions in these modern times.

So what does Jess do? She sneaks around, going against her parents’ wishes in order to fulfill her dream of playing in an all-girls football team. Why? Jess feels that if she didn’t try her best with achieving her dream, despite her parents’ wanting her to keep their traditions, then she’d feel like a total failure for the rest of her life with nothing else to live for other than cook, clean, do the dishes, laundry and look after the kids.

Remember, all this is on top of her being the only Indian girl on her team.

If anything’s certain, Jess has a will to overcome. She doesn’t allow the negativity in her life to rule her sanity or her motivation to accomplish her goals.

Jess is a true achiever who is better than “good enough”.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

Have you ever heard of the movie Bend It Like Beckham? If you have, what did you like about Jess?

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15 thoughts on “Jess Bhamra

  1. A sweet film, one of those permanent summer sunshine films that remind you of school holidays. It’s interesting to note how Nagra, Knightley and now Archie Panjabi all went on to make it in the States, less so in Britain where the film was made.

    Gurinder Chadha’s films often examined the strains between modern life and tradition and it’s interesting how Jess’s parents let her have so much until it all started to impact on what others might think.

    Anupam Kher is a big star in Mumbai and a very underrated actor. (Hilarious in Kyaa Kool Hai Hum.) One of my favourite lines from the film is when Joe (Rhys Meyers) asks Jess ‘where do you play?’ [which position] and she says ‘In the park.’

  2. I was completely obsessed with this movie when I was 14. I found inspiring and hilarious, and used to unashamedly shout at the screen at Knightley’s character.

  3. I love this movie! Surprisingly enough we got to study it at my school. Probably everyone’s favorite lesson 🙂

  4. That better than cooking etc. line is what a lot of mums go through especially stay at home mums. Thank goodness for following our passions. Surprise surprise I haven’t seen this movie.

  5. I love this movie! A few weak spots, but overall, funny and delightful. Plus, on the DVD (not sure if it’s only offered on one edition, or if it’s a special feature offered on all home video editions of the movie), the director and her mother make the dish aloo gobi. It’s a really good recipe! And they’re sweet and charming. I need to bust it out for a re-watch. Thanks for the reminder! 🙂

  6. One I missed. Recently saw The Girl with the Dragon Tat. and was not amused. Her character is absurd and to extreme. I just did not get it. Maybe because I am old school.

  7. Being an Indian, I liked the story in general, where a woman is allowed to go out of her ‘defined’ character to get / do what she really wants.

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