British actor Jimi Mistry was born in Yorkshire to a Hindu Indian father and a Catholic English mother. After growing up in Manchester and studying in Birmingham, he moved to London to become an actor. He made his screen debut in 1996 with a non-speaking role in Kenneth Branagh's adaptation of Hamlet. On the stage, Mistry was cast as the rebellious son Tariq Khan in the semi-autobiographical play East Is East by Ayub Khan-Din. After a nice run at the Royal Court Theater, the story was made into a film directed by Damien O'Donnell for Film Four. Mistry reprised his role for the movie, which was released in the U.K. in 1998. The following year, he gained a lot of exposure as a doctor on the extremely long-running British soap opera EastEnders.
In 2000, Mistry played small-time crook Eddie in David Kane's comedy Born Romantic, which was followed by a small role in the drama My Kingdom. Mistry then went to Trinidad to make the Merchant-Ivory costume drama The Mystic Masseur. In a rapid succession, he married his wife Meg, became a father, and found out he was to star in his first U.S. film, The Guru. He played Ramu Gupta, an Indian dance teacher who moves to America to be a star, but ends up with a career using his unique sensual abilities to please women. Also starring Heather Graham and Marisa Tomei, the film incorporates elements of Bollywood productions with standard romantic comedies. Mistry's next starring role was young, gay, Muslim Alim in the romantic comedy Touch of Pink, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Later projects included the war romance Partition, the action comedy Dead Fish, and the comedy drama You Don't Have to Say You Love Me.