In this age of diversity and multicultural inclusion in entertainment, portrayals of various cultures from different countries have been well appreciated. Entertainment industries adapted this strategy also as a means to attract audiences from different niches.
Marvel was never far from it, portraying African culture in Black Panther (2018) and Asian culture in the recent Shang-Chi and Legend of the Ten Rings (2021). But one big culture was always overlooked, the South Asian one whose only representation in Marvel was the cab driver Dopinder in the Deadpool franchise.
With the ongoing Disney+ miniseries Ms Marvel, the wait for the Indian subcontinent audience finally ends with the inclusion of the first South Asian Muslim superhero Kamala Khan into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Kamala Khan is a Muslim Pakistani-American teenager who lives with her parents and brother in New Jersey. Like any other teenager, she always gets lost in her thoughts and imagination and looks up to her idols, the Avengers and specifically, Captain Marvel.
But her life is not just the generic teenager one; instead, it is spiced with the Indian culture – living under strict Muslim parents, abiding by the culture, religion, and so on. The Life of a South Asian teenager living in a first-world country should be a bit complex to portray on-screen.
However, Kamala Khan's superpowers are discovered when she finds a set of bangles from rummaging through her grandmother's belongings. However, this show changes her shape-shifting powers from comics to cosmic powers.
A bit of the dark history of South Asia is shown in the context, the Partition of India, where millions of people were left homeless just by drawing borders; Kamala's grandmother was among those unfortunate people.
Marvel also incorporates elements of superstitions and beliefs of Muslim society while diverting from the original comic plot. The concept of Jinn is a well-placed belief in Muslim culture from where many superstitions arise.
In Ms Marvel, Jinns are introduced as the show’s main villain, albeit associating it with one of the supervillain groups in the comics, the Clandestine. Kamala Khan is seen fighting a group of Clandestine or Jinns, which feels surreal to watch in a Marvel show.
Though Ms Marvel looks like a classic coming-of-age teen superhero show, in one way it was successful in reaching out to the South Asian audience.
Kamala Khan’s life perfectly resembles the life of a South Asian teenager, which almost every teenager from this subcontinent can relate to.
Newcomer Iman Vellani portrayed this character so perfectly that it looks like she is living the life of Kamala Khan. Moreover, Indian wedding scenes and references to Shahrukh Khan films serve as Bollywood nostalgia to the Indian subcontinent audience.
Ms Marvel reached out to 775,000 US households on its premiere, with the most views from the Black and Asian population despite being the least-watched MCU Disney+ show.
With only three episodes released and stories yet to unfold, Ms Marvel is a must-watch for South Asian Marvel fans who want to experience the first superhero from the subcontinent on-screen.