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how South Asian identity is perfectly portrayed

how South Asian identity is perfectly portrayed

A Muslim South Asian girl as a superhero? In some multiverse, there’s a teenager I scream for joy at Disney +’s latest Marvel show, Mrs. Marvel.

As an Indian Muslim woman who grew up watching Marvel movies, I have waited a long time for this representation, and in the character of Kamala Khan, it has been worth it.

An American-Pakistani teenager growing up in New Jersey, Kamala always has one foot at home and one in fantasy land: crosses a life out of the ordinary and dreams of becoming a superhero like her idol, Captain Marvel. These dreams come true when a bracelet inherited from her grandmother unlocks Kamala’s inherent magical powers through her great-grandmother, Aisha, a jinn from another dimension who fell in love with a human being.

Mrs. Marvel
Iman Vellani stars as Kamala Khan in Ms Marvel

As an Indian Muslim, my first reaction to seeing the program was skepticism; Would a Western audience tolerate so much South Asian? Nevertheless, at no time has it felt that the show has to compensate for the cast or the culture.

Not only is this show centered around a Muslim teenager – Iman Vellani does a fantastic job as Kamala – but it also boasts a very talented, diverse female-led crew and a cast from across the diaspora, with Kamala’s best friend, Bruno, as the only white character. There is nothing symbolic about this representation.

A Muslim cultural focus is a perspective that usually keeps me awake. For the past 20 years, Muslim representation in Western films has often been like terrorists, to such an extent that when there is Muslim culture on the screen, my heart falls before I allow myself to feel elated. As a result, we tend to feel more secure when our identity is hidden, as if we are afraid of drawing too much attention to ourselves. What if loving our religion were interpreted by the world as an extremist? The scenes shot in the mosque in episodes two and three felt so intimate, as if I shared the responsibility for how the audience could feel about a mosque and its people.

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Mrs. Marvel
Ms Marvel is streaming on Disney + now

In the same way, jinns were part of the horror stories Muslims grew up listening to. When Kamala was revealed to be a partial jinn, I wondered if these cultural histories could be used to caricature Muslims? I broke out in light laughter when Bruno answered Kamala and said that she might be a jinn with: “And tonic?” This mistaken hearing made it an inner joke. It is so rare that we are addressed directly, and in such a warm, joking way, as a conversation between the show and us.

That conversation has been handled with such flair. Like many viewers, I have greatly appreciated it Ms Marvels airy refusal to subtitle basic hindi and urdu words like acha, beta, chalo and are you. It was time for globalization to adapt to our South Asian conditions! If I can pick up Gilmore girls references Although we have not seen half of the shows they talked about, we should expect that western and specifically white audiences can also capture Asian words and references through context. And it is always Google that helps us through.

I had, it seemed, internalized a narrative in which South Asian stories are only valuable if they are validated by Western audiences, and thought that the show must have “balance” to be seen by audiences of other races; something I base my own experience on being marginalized. But the program’s recent focus on partitioning made me realize differently.

While she understands more about her superpowers, Kamala learns that her great-grandmother, Aisha, the original owner of the bracelet, disappeared in shame once during the division of India and Pakistan. In 1947, before the British left the soon-to-be-independent India, a border was drawn that divided northwestern India into two parts: India and Pakistan. A move that was allegedly made to give Muslims their nation to prevent common tension, resulted in violence that took thousands of Hindus and Muslim lives.

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Mrs. Marvel
Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan / Ms Marvel and Matt Lintz as Bruno Carrelli

The stories of sharing have kept us awake at night. I was afraid that the story of the show would not be able to do justice to something so delicate. This could be a one-sided conversation. The stakes are so much higher because we share this story with the world, especially generations who have no idea about the catastrophe that unfolded. But Mrs. Marvel emphasized that separation with a boundary cannot erase similar identities.

Much of it has to do with showrunner Bisha K Ali, the British-Pakistani writer who leads a diverse writing team. By choosing her to lead this flagship series, Marvel has given rise to South Asian stories that have depth, nuance and originality: and allowed the right people to tell them.

The cast is similarly rich, with actors with Pakistani heritage, as well as key players from Bollywood: Farhan Akhtar, who plays Waleed; Zenobia Shroff, who plays Muneeba Khan, Kamala’s mother; Mohan Kapur as Yusuf Khan.

As a viewer, the globalized approach to this show makes me feel part of this content. I had always felt alienated from the western content I ate, but no longer. I felt seen. It is also interesting to see how the music mixes Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi and English, which is a spectacular reflection of how the diaspora communicates with the world in several languages.

Mrs. Marvel
Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan / Ms Marvel

And of course, music can form connections deeper than language. In episode two, when Kamala’s brother Aamir marries his fiancĂ©e Tyesha Aamir, a remix of the song Tere Bina from the popular Bollywood movie from 2007 Guru player. It’s such a romantic song, played when they both say “I do” that you do not have to speak the language to feel the intensity of their love for each other. Even when the show plays electronic or modern music from India, regardless of your identity, the beats and rhythm will draw you into our culture.

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So often we delete our identities to interfere, especially when we come from a marginalized society. That is why Mrs. Marvel gave me a shock. This is a show that does not hesitate to show how important your legacy plays in your life.

Marvel’s cheerful, kind show is bolder than others and indispensable when it comes to rooting for the South Asian.

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