Bright lights, big city

Bright lights, big city

Namrata Bindra credits her Hong Kong upbringing for her success as an actress in New York

While Hong Kong is perhaps best known for its commerce, actress Namrata Bindra believes that the city is also an ideal breeding ground for acting.

"[Hong Kong] really helped me develop my skills, and realise what's unique about me, and the cultural aspects that I really own," says Bindra, a former Island School student who moved to Connecticut in the US for her double-major bachelor degree in psychology and theatre.

After she started her acting classes there, she found out the cultural aspects of Hong Kong are something that "not a lot of people in the States are exposed to".

She's referring, specifically, to the multicultural environment in which she grew up. She believes that upbringing has allowed her to thrive as an actress more than her American counterparts.

Bindra says: "Island School was such an international school. You have people there from every country. So you're surrounded by so many accents, so many traditions, so many cultures, and so many perspectives and attitudes that you can't help but kind of soak in."

In acting, people are often asked to portray a character culturally or ethnically different from their own lives. A timely example would be British actor Chiwetel Ejiofor's portrayal of a slave named Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave, a film that's a frontrunner for the Best Picture Oscar next week.

Bindra says that growing up in an ethnically diverse place like Hong Kong allowed her to pick up everyday references naturally.

"These are things that you don't realise until you leave and until you're asked to produce it, and you then go, 'oh my gosh, I actually knew that'," she says. "For instance, I know people from Australia speak with a little bit of a twang. Also, the way they hold their head can be quite different. And that's something that I can refer back from Australian friends."

After graduating from university, Bindra, who is in her mid-20s, took a job as a youth councillor in New York. But the acting bug bit again, so she decided to join a summer acting school.

In a production called An Absurdist Omelette, Bindra played a role that required her to seamlessly switch between Hindi and English.

"There were two of us who are fluent in non-traditional languages, Hindi and German. We had to constantly switch between the foreign language and English while speaking with each other," she recalls.

Since then, Bindra has taken part in more shows, including In Private: A Night of Hollywood Icons, in which she starred as acclaimed Hollywood actress Jane Russell, from the 1950s.

She believes she'll always be thankful for her upbringing in such a lively and cosmopolitan city. "Hong Kong is so international, and if you look around, it's not just Asians and Chinese people from Hong Kong. There are so many different people," she says.

While not everyone is fortunate enough to be an actor on the big stage of New York, those who are looking to act in Hong Kong have no need to worry. Bindra says there are plenty of casting opportunities here, since many Western productions are now coming to Hong Kong to shoot China-related scenes.

And when even director Michael Bay brings his Transformers robots here for his next film, who are we to disagree?

This article appeared in the Young Post print edition as
Bright lights, big city


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