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'Ms Marvel' makes history for Muslim representation

The aim is to invite audiences to experience Kamala’s Muslim and Pakistani heritage without holding anyone’s hand through it.

Ms Marvel makes history for Muslim representation

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  10 Jun 2022 5:51 AM GMT

When Iman Vellani was brought on board for the role of Kamala Khan, the Pakistani American teen superhero also known as Ms Marvel, it was her debut in acting. The 19-year-old, Vellani also took on the responsibility of playing the first Muslim superhero.

"I'm honestly so privileged that Marvel trusts me to bring a character like Kamala to life," Vellani told 'Variety'. At the same time, she says: "There's so much weight that comes with being the first of anything."

The advice she received from Marvel leadership was simply to be herself. "They're like, 'You don't go to work thinking that you're the first Muslim superhero; you just go to work and have fun'," Vellani recalled.

"That's what I keep telling myself: I don't really have to go out of my way and advocate for Muslim and Pakistani representation," she explains.

"This is one story of one girl. We cannot represent all two billion Muslims and South Asians, but this is definitely a good start." That methodology has been the keystone for the core creative team behind 'Ms. Marvel'.

Along with the mostly South Asian and Muslim cast, the team includes head writer Bisha K. Ali, executive producer Sana Amanat and directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, Meera Menon and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy.

"It's this crossover from being the other in the room to being the room, that's the best way to describe it," says Zenobia Shroff, who plays Kamala's mother, Muneeba, reports 'Variety'.

"Not just on set, but behind the scenes, too. We were basically run by strong Brown women, and that's the way we like it."

The six-episode series presents Kamala's origins while she also navigates the turmoil of being a teenager — from the nuances of her relationships with her family and her experiences at home to her high school friends and her mosque in Jersey City.

The aim is to invite audiences to experience Kamala's Muslim and Pakistani heritage without holding anyone's hand through it.

"We try to be as authentic and realistic as possible, and the characters wouldn't explain what that means," El Arbi says. "That's what we wanted to do with this show."

Ali adds: "I am very wary of justification, of pointing at things and explaining very overtly. I'd much rather it come from a place of it's just who she is."

The series weaves in cultural references, like the Khan's family observation of the holiday Eid, as naturally as the celebrations of Christmas in 'Hawkeye'.

"The celebrations and the events that we see, and the way that she interacts with elements of the community, it's the day-to-day life of an American girl," Ali says. (IANS)

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