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Close-up: Sarita Choudhury

The actress is the cross-cultural spice of ”Mississippi Masala”

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In 1990, when she was writing for Fodor’s Italy 1991 and modeling in London, former film student Sarita Choudhury sent ”a tatty Polaroid that was mostly a lot of hair” to director Mira Nair (Salaam Bombay!). It wasn’t a part she was after. ”I just wanted to meet Mira,” says Choudhury, 24. ”I hoped I could work on the crew.” The picture proved a much larger photo opportunity, however. Choudhury is now debuting to much praise as the sweet, sensual heroine in . Nair’s spicy cross-cultural romance, Mississippi Masala.

The daughter of an Indian biologist father and a British schoolteacher mother, Choudhury grew up in Jamaica and Italy. Like Mina, the Indian woman she plays in Masala, she has never lived in India. ”We both have nostalgia for something we’ve never known,” she says. The actress is now living in New York’s East Village and studying modern dance. Dance training came in handy during a love scene with costar Denzel Washington: ”You’re not thinking of having sex,” she says. ”I saw it as a dance — the whole movement.”

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