British actor Rish Shah makes his debut today in episode two of Ms. Marvel, the new Disney+ series.
If you haven’t seen it yet, the series revolves around a 16-year-old girl with superpowers living in New Jersey who happens to be a Pakistani Muslim, the first in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe.
Kamala Khan’s character debuted in 2014 in her Ms. Marvel and has since received critical acclaim and commercial praise.
The first issue is in its seventh run and will be one of Marvel’s best-selling collections, according to the show’s production notes.
The six-episode Disney+ series is a coming-of-age story that tackles the awkwardness of puberty, defying your strict immigrant parents, and navigating high school influencers.
Rish Shah, who plays Kamala’s love interest, Kamran, makes an appearance in the second episode.
He says he can find himself in the characters and hopes that people will feel seen.
“I think it took a long time to think — and realize how cool it is to be proud of your culture,” he told ABC News.
“It took me a long time growing up to accept that it’s cool to be Indian or Pakistani or South Asian in general.
From the moment Kamran appears on the screen, Kamala is in love. They bond over Bollywood songs and movies and Kamran offers her driving lessons.
Even though Shah says Kamran is a mama’s boy, his character still comes across as a mysterious presence on the show.
The series is a huge step forward for a diverse representation in the franchise.
Kamala, played by newcomer Iman Vellani, also deals with the push and pull of family culture and Western society — as are two of the show’s directors.
Adil El Arbi and Billal Farah recently teamed up to direct the Will Smith and Martin Lawrence film Bad Boys for Life, and Farah says there’s a lot to like about the characters in Ms. Marvel that we can identify with.
“We’re Belgian-Moroccan so we don’t really feel Belgian, we don’t really feel Moroccan, especially when you’re 16 years old, you’re trying to figure out who you are,” Farah, who co-directed two episodes, says.
“Kamala Khan is in between this American culture and Pakistani Islamic culture and seeing her, you know, being in high school, uncomfortable, not knowing who she is and trying to find a way, felt exactly like my high school days.
In the first episode, Kamala just wants to go to Avengers-Con with her best friend Bruno (Matt Lintz), which is similar to Comic-Con, but the MCU version focuses on The Avengers.
She enjoys drawing and fanfiction about the Avengers, much to her parents’ chagrin.
“It was just really fun for us to show the different perspectives of the Muslim experience, just like all of us,” said Kamala’s character executive producer and co-creator Sana Amanat.
“We’re all different and we bring a little bit of ourselves to those stories.”
While the show tells a universal story about growing up (always dealing with new superpowers), it’s also a major step forward for representation and visibility in the MCU.
There are examples in the show that are typical of an immigrant family: there’s code switching (swapping between languages between the parents and children within the same conversation), Khan’s mother packs a bag full of homemade food for her best friend Bruno, and the tension in trying to grow up in a western country and at the same time not disappoint your parents.
“It’s a very youthful, hopeful, colorful show that will not only appeal to all Muslims in the world, but just, you know, has universal appeal and can tell (and) feel empathy for anyone even non-Muslim for that and love that character,” says El Arbi.
Ms. Marvel is important because hopefully it will open doors to tell more of these stories in a nuanced and meaningful way.
“I feel like that’s what Marvel does really well is say that any kind of person can be a superhero, and they’re just like any of us and I think we’re kind of at the beginning of that and the MCU,” says Amanat.
The show already has a famous fan in Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, who wrote that “it’s not every day that I turn on the TV and find a character eating the same food, listening to the same music or using the same Urdu phrases as I do. “
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