Nargis Fakhri (born October 20, 1979) is an American-born-Pakistani actress and former model, who mainly appears in Hindi films.
Fakhri was born in Queens, New York, to Mohammed Fakhri, a businessman, and Marie Fakhri, a former police officer. According to the actress, her father was Pakistani who moved to the United States for better earnings, while her mother is Czech.
She has one younger sister, Aliya. Fakhri’s parents divorced when she was six, and her father died a few years later. Because of her mixed Pakistani-Czech ethnicity and American nationality, Fakhri describes herself a “global citizen”.
Fakhri started her career as a model at the age of 16. In her later years, she appeared as a contestant on the second and third cycle of America’s Next Top Model (2004).
Although Fakhri was selected for the first two challenges of both the cycles, she failed to make up to the third challenge for the top twelve contestants.
She subsequently modeled professionally in America, working for freelance agencies, and appearing regularly at fashion shows.
Fakhri’s fame increased when she appeared in a highly popular Indian print campaign for the 2009 Kingfisher Calendar.
Her appearance in the Kingfisher Calendar attracted the attention of Indian filmmaker Imtiaz Ali. He selected her for a role in the Hindi romantic drama Rockstar.
Fakhri made her acting debut with a female lead role in Imtiaz Ali’s musical romantic drama Rockstar in 2011.
The film follows the journey of an aspiring musician from a humble background to international stardom after the death of his passionate lover.
Rockstar was the first film in India to show a Kashmiri Pandit wedding, and saw Fakhri as a free-spirited rich brat, hailing from the Kashmiri Pandit background.
Due to her poor command in Hindi, Fakhri’s voice was dubbed over by the voice artist Mona Ghosh Shetty.The film received overwhelming responses from critics, but their opinions toward her were mixed, though she was praised for her looks.
Film critic Taran Adarsh wrote: “Nargis is a stunner as far as looks are concerned, but isn’t persuasive in poignant moments”, however, he praised her on-screen chemistry with co-star Ranbir Kapoor. Raja Sen of Rediff.com noted that she is an “exotically ravishing heroine, one so pretty we forgive her occasionally stilted diction”. While Nikhat Kazmi praised her performance and said that Fakhri “stands tall as the delectable Heer who sizzles on screen with her unconventional ways”.
With a gross revenue of ₹1.07 billion (US$15 million), Rockstar was one of the top-grossing Hindi films of the year. Fakhri’s performance in the film earned her several Best Female Debut nominations at various award ceremonies, including a Filmfare nomination.
Her next release was opposite John Abraham in the Shoojit Sircar’s political thriller Madras Cafe (2013), a drama set during the time of the Indian intervention in the Sri Lankan civil war and the assassination of former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. Her portrayal was of a British war correspondent in Sri Lanka, and was inspired by many war correspondents, including Anita Pratap.
Unlike her debut film, Fakhri dubbed her own dialogues and was approached for the film because Sircar wanted “a girl who looked Indian but had an [English] accent”. Upon release, Madras Cafe received acclaim from the critics, and the performances of the lead actors were praised.
Saibal Chatterjee said Fakhri “strikes the right notes”, whereas Rajeev Masand called her “pleasantly competent”. Anuj Kumar of The Hindu was particularly impressed with the film and thought that Fakhri has proved that she has more to her than just a “prominent pout”.
Later that year, she made a special appearance in the action comedy Phata Poster Nikhla Hero to perform in the item number “Dhating Naach” with the film’s lead actor Shahid Kapoor.