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Is Ms Marvel Really EPIC?

June 13, 2022 17:25 IST
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Ms Marvel's first episode did not bore me, but it made me question the very existence of the first Muslim superhero, observes Subhash K Jha.

For months now, we have been hearing of the first Muslim superhero, and that too a 16-year-old female... the self-congratulatory tone of the 'revolutionary' announcement had me agog.

I sat through Episode One of Ms Marvel on Disney+Hotstar, marveling the sheer temerity of the endeavour.

Yes, it is wonderful to have an Asian American girl aspiring to be a superhero.

Having gotten that in place, Ms Marvel throws the most obnoxious stereotypes in our face.

And I mean, really cheap shots, like Pakistani parents who, after living in America for years, still speak in that sing-song accent that you will hear in American television series.

It wasn't there in Kumail Nanjiani's wonderful film The Big Sick, so I presume American movies on the Pakistani experience are exempt from the clutches of vicious stereotyping.

Here in Ms Marvel, there is no dearth of it.


The mom Muneeba, played with an alarming gusto by Zenobia Shroff, is the typical over-protective mother, who won't let her free spirited daughter Kamala fly high... literally.

Kamala wants to be a superhero. Mom won't let her.

'Make up your mind whether you want to be a grounded girl or one of those cosmic fantasy girls,' says Mom.

No answer required to that one.

Though we do get an answer at the end of the episode.

*Suspense, Suspense.*

Keeping in faith with almost everything in the episode, mom Muneeba is full of glaring contradictions.

She is a conservative Pakistani at heart, who won't allow her daughter to go out in the night.

But she doesn't mind Kamala's male American best friend Bruno visiting her daughter at any time of day or night.

Mubeena even packs Pakistani food for Bruno to take home.

Oh, Kamala's father is played by our own Mohan Kapur.

He tries hard to hold on to his 'Pakistani' accent and then gives up midway. Sensible chap.

The couple has a son with a very fake beard, who is heavily into religion. Let's give him his space.

Incidentally, what's with this 'Kamala' name?

As far as I know, it comes from Kamal, a Hindi/Sanskrit word with no Pakistani affiliation. Not that it matters.

Kamala by any other name would be just as unbearable.

The young actress Iman Vellani playing Kamala is annoyingly pantomimic.

She does an imitation of exactly what a Asian American teenager would do.

But it all seems derivative, borrowed.

A fresh-faced imitation of the real thing.

'It's gonna be epic,' Kamala screams at some point in the first episode.

I doubt it.

Ms Marvel's first episode did not bore me, but it made me question the very existence of the first Muslim superhero.

The pressure to get the the flavours and fervour of a Muslim American family are desperately and laughably ineffective.

At one point, the soundtrack comes alive to the sound of Ko Ko Korina, the evergreen 1966 Pakistani song from the film Armaan, which was re-recorded by Coke Studios in 2018. The remix was widely panned as phony and opportunistic.

I would rate the first episode of Ms Marvel as the equivalent of the Coke Studios' version of Ko Ko Korina.

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