- The Disney+ fare is inspirational, inclusive and perhaps cosmic. Well done director Meera Menon, and head writer Bisha K. Ali.
I watched “Ms. Marvel” on Disney+ last night. It is refreshing. Kamala (not Kamla like the Hindu Goddess Lakshmi) Khan is an ebullient teenager with an overarching obsession with superheroes. Her highly creative imagination makes her live in an imaginary world in her sketchbook doodles and on social media where Captain Marvel rules among the other avengers.
Kamala on-screen and Imal Vellani in real life is a Pakistani American adolescent girl, who lives in Jersey City with her rather traditional parents (Yousuf and Muneeba) and her brother (Rashid) Kamala is at an awkward age. She is gawky. Can’t pass her driving test despite her “bismillahs’ ‘ and doesn’t really fit in at school. She is lucky to have a loyal friend in Bruno (Matt Lintz) who encourages her to participate in an Avengers’ costume contest at the Comicon.
Her mother wants her to erase all fantastical notions from her head, but her father is more encouraging. She makes a costume for herself. A cross between Spider-Man, Superman and a Roman gladiator. As a last flourish, she wears a metal cuff that belongs to her great grandmother, Aisha. This metal bangle with cryptic calligraphy catapults her into the avatar of Ms. Marvel with superpowers like the heroes of her imagination.
Her “head in the clouds” sensibility and elaborate doodles remind me of another young girl (yours truly) in school several years ago who poured over comics even at night with a flashlight in bed. Her Avengers enthusiasm and her infectious energy are just like my grandson (Ayush, the incorrigible!), who can talk ad nauseum about their superpowers but won’t recite his multiplication tables.
She is named “Night Light” by the onlookers because she emanates a blue ethereal light that hardens into crystalline matter (Kamala calls it hard light! But Kamala is just like any other teenager in real life, and she swoons at the sight of a handsome senior Kamran (Rishi Shah) who steals her heart with his British accent, smile and a flashy car. Before we know it the two are gushing like “Desi buddies” over Shah Rukh Khan’s “Baazigar” and “DDLJ.” Is King Khan set to make an appearance in an upcoming episode in the series? It is surreal. Shah Rukh’s magic is pervasive. Even Bruno and my next-door neighbor Brian have watched “Baazigar.”
I did like the way Nakia (Yasmeen Fletcher) Kamala’s friend mentions, makes a point that in the American curriculum where six weeks are spent teaching Ancient Greek history only six minutes are spent on Persia and the Byzantium. But I did not like the mother Zenobia Shroff calling the driving instructor kameena. ( Was it a throwback on DDLJ’s Raj calling the cops in Europe kuttas and kameenas).
The Eid festival is kitschy with Kamala’s father gorging on a plateful of marzipan mithai. The reference to ice cream pizza sent my blood sugar soaring. Perhaps, it was a message from Meera Menon to all the prediabetic desis with an overindulgent sweet tooth.
But selfie-obsessed “Mosque Bros” and omniscient “Illumina aunties” are a nice touch. As are the flourishing graphics, opening score, rap sequence, the display of disparity between the male and female areas in the mosque. Kamala’s dance sequence as an infatuated teenager gave me a dopamine surge.
“Ms. Marvel” is made like a mainstream American teenage/young adult TV series like “Dawson Creek,” “Saved by the Bell,” “The Secret World of Alex Mack” and “Degrassi High,” but it is a coming-of-age story of a young girl from a minority community. It is inspirational, inclusive and perhaps cosmic. Well done director Meera Menon, head writer Bisha K. Ali and co-executive producer Sana Amanat. Take a bow Iman Vellani.
“My heart is full”! Mashallah!
With one foot in Huntsville, Alabama, the other in her birth home India and a heart steeped in humanity, writing is a contemplative practice for Monita Soni. She has published hundreds of poems, movie reviews, book critiques, essays and contributed to combined literary works. Her two books are My Light Reflections and Flow through My Heart. You can hear her commentaries on Sundial Writers Corner WLRH 89.3FM and the Princess Theater.