- Thank you Marvel Studios for this seemingly bold, yet obvious step of hiring South Asians to make a series about South Asians.
I say this irrespective of the fact that I am a huge Marvel Studios fan. The studios, not the comics — the comics are beyond my realm. Thanks to my 10-year-old son, who is in the middle of his Ph.D. on the Marvel Universe, I have learned to savor and revel in the multiverses brought to life by Marvel Studios.
Regardless, all South Asians must watch “Ms. Marvel,” and let me tell you why.
First, it is the first time an American production has authentically and accurately depicted South Asian culture.
From conversations arguing whether DDLJ is truly SRK’s best work, to stealing the groom’s shoes at his wedding, the show is brimming with subtly nuanced references to routine facets in a South Asian American’s life.
And not just for the immigrant/first-generation community — the series even takes us back home to the motherland, bringing us to the throbbing-with-life streets of Pakistan’s largest, most populous city — Karachi.
It was simply a pleasure to watch something where I didn’t feel like it was white people’s interpretation of us. And that’s because it isn’t. Look at the credits and you’ll see that the majority of the major players are of South Asian descent, including women directors. It’s about freakin’ time — thank you Marvel Studios for this seemingly bold, yet obvious step of hiring South Asians to make a series about South Asians.
Second, you will learn, or get the opportunity to share with whoever is watching with you, about India and Pakistan’s very real, and not-so-far in the past history.
You and I may know about the Partition, but the rest of the world doesn’t. They’ve heard of Mahatma Gandhi, and may vaguely remember that the British ruled India — but that’s about as far as it goes.
“Ms. Marvel” takes you into a quick, deep dive into the rich history of India’s fight for freedom from British rule, without being overly pedantic. As my husband and I watched with our son, we found ourselves pausing the TV to share our own stories.
I learned that my mother-in-law’s family had moved from Dhaka to Kolkata during Partition — something that my husband never mentioned in our 15 years of marriage, probably because it just never came up. I could see the wheels in my son’s head turning when the story on TV was no longer just a story, but something that his own grandmother had gone through.
Three, the music.
I haven’t seen a TV series where the end credits sequence has a unique soundtrack for each episode. Has this been done before? Please correct me if I’m wrong, but what a brilliant move.
Indian cinema is synonymous with its vibrant musicality. Even now, the majority of our music industry is enmeshed within the film industry; the “independent music” scene (music that is not affiliated with movies or television) is a burgeoning market.
So, like our movies, why just stick to one song? Why not have 6 original soundtracks for the 6 episodes? The music compliments the episodes incredibly well — from hip hop Punjabi rap, and soulful Sufi, to harmonium rocking, ankle bells ringing melodies reminiscent of the 1950s.
Four, because it’s the first South-Asian Muslim woman superhero. ‘Nuff said.
In conclusion, I implore all my fellow South Asians to watch this series, and by doing so, we support our stories to come out in highly visible productions like “Ms. Marvel.” I, for one, am greatly looking forward to the next season. And when you make it to the post-credits sequence (because you would obviously wait until the credits are done to watch this vital glimpse into what awaits you in the Marvel Universe — duh!), you’ll be happy to know that this isn’t the last you’ll be seeing of Kamala Khan, aka Ms. Marvel.
Antara Bhardwaj is a Kathak artist and filmmaker based in Mountain View, California, where she lives with her husband and son. She runs a dance company and school by the name of Antara Asthaayi Dance. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram.