Representation has become the keyword in cinema, especially in Hollywood in recent times. An upcoming example of diversity in showbiz is going to be the Disney Plus series Ms Marvel. Touted as the first South Asian superhero ensemble project, Ms Marvel will follow the journey of its teenage heroine, Kamala Khan, a Pakistani-American youth who discovers who she is while living a seemingly ordinary life in the US.
Representation in Marvel movies and shows
We have had some diversity in various Marvel or MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) shows and movies over the years. From the late Irrfan’s appearance in the Amazing Spider-Man as Dr Ratha, or even Karan Soni’s Dopinder in Ryan Reynolds-led irreverent Deadpool, to a more solid presence in that universe in the form of Kumail Nanjiani’s Kingo in Eternals, where the actor played a Bollywood star-turned superhero. We have seen the presence of desi people, but never at such a scale. Ms Marvel can perhaps then be compared to a Black Panther, or Simu Liu-starrer Shang-Chi and the Legend of Ten Rings, where almost the entire cast was made of up of the Black or Asian community.
So far, we have our leading lady of a South Asian origin. Ms Marvel aka Iman Vellani is a 19-year-old Pakistani-Canadian actor who will be seen essaying the role of Kamala Khan in the series. Other prominent cast members are also South Asians, including Mohan Kapur, Sagar Shaikh and Nimra Bucha. Of course, more popular stars like Indian filmmaker-actor Farhan Akhtar and Pakistani superstar Fawad Khan will also be seen making an appearance in Ms Marvel.
The team of Ms Marvel
Not only the actors, but the team putting together the show behind the scenes is also largely of a South Asian descent. From British-Pakistani creator of the series Bisha K Ali to its talented Pakistani illustrator Shehzil Malik, Disney has made sure to pick its artistes carefully. Shehzil, in a somewhat emotional but joy-laden social media post, had shared her contribution with the world sometime back. Her post caption read, “The @msmarvelofficial poster is here! @marvel asked to use some of my artworks in the show to represent Kamala Khan’s heritage as a Muslim/Pakistani-American superhero, and it’s so exciting to see it come together! ⚡️🇵🇰⚡️ Thank you to @sharmeenobaidchinoy for thinking of me, and the Marvel team for including my art in the show 🙏🏾. The poster is designed by Marvel; original artworks that they’ve collaged in the background are by me.”
The ‘desi’ elements of Ms Marvel
Let’s get the biggest desi element of Ms Marvel out of the way first. Our heroine Kamala Khan is Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan’s ardent admirer in the series. In fact, according to the makers and some reports doing the rounds, Ms Marvel is also a big-time Bollywood fan. The makers of Ms Marvel have gone on record to state that they would be willing to reshoot the entire show if SRK is willing to be a part of it in some form!
According to one BBC critic, who has already seen a couple of episodes from the show, we will even get a soundtrack from Pakistan-based singer Haseen Raheem.
Of course all this representation makes sense as Kamala Khan herself has deep roots in the South Asian culture. Kamala’s parents had migrated from India’s Bombay to Pakistan during the painful partition era, and her clothes in comics in bangles and salwar-kameez further shows the audience where she’s originally from.
Well, here’s hoping for more meaningful and justified representation for all communities in future world cinema.
Ms Marvel will premiere on June 8 on Disney Plus Hotstar.