Interview with Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, the director of Ms. Marvel, about "going back to 1947" with th
Updated: Jul 18
Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy discussed the show's enormous goals, how Ms. Marvel recreates Karachi, and what it does for representation in an interview with Hindustan Times.
The first episode of Ms. Marvel, the Disney+ Hotstar series that introduces the first Pakistani superhero to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, features Kamala Khan saying, "It's not exactly the brown ladies from Jersey City who save the world. The fourth and fifth episodes of the superhero series are directed by prominent social justice documentarians Saving Face, A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, and A Journey of a Thousand Miles by Pakistani filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy.
Young Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) travels from Jersey City to Karachi in the fourth episode to learn more about her ancestry and newly discovered powers. The show dives into the agony of Partition by studying the tales of Kamala's great-grandmother, a being from another realm who gave Kamala her special skills.
I chatted with Sharmeen through Zoom about the show's enormous goals, its portrayal of diverse viewpoints, and its attempt to recreate Karachi. Nearly a thousand extras were working on the set of the moment where we traveled back to 1947 when we were standing on the platform. There was a time on set when everyone on set couldn't believe that we were able to recreate Partition and present this tale to this generation while Kamala was walking on the platform and listening to these snippets of talks. We felt as though we had been transported to 1947 at the time we were recording her crossing the platform. Each of us sensed the suffering those families were through, and it seemed as though we were watching history unfold.
My hometown of Karachi comes to mind when I think about its obnoxious buses and trucks, vibrant markets, and the textiles that are offered for sale. Along with the peculiarity of a Chinese dentist adjacent to a clock shop, dupattas are being sold and bartering customers. All I wanted was for it all to come to life. The majority of the audience, who were likely going to visit Karachi for the first time, were going on this exploration voyage with Kamala, therefore I wanted them to join her. Additionally, I wished for them to share my perspective of Karachi. This is why we chose the music we did. Everything in the scene was carefully planned, including the street's vehicles and the appearance of the Chinese restaurant she passes. I believe we succeeded in recreating Karachi's appearance and feel with all of that, which was imported and developed.
With this show, I wanted everyone to fall in love with Kamala Khan's family and desire to live their lifestyle, including eating the same foods, using the same slang, and listening to the same music. We wanted to show people the depth of our culture and lives, which few people outside of our immediate area are aware of. Weddings and festivals were the only things we tried to use to entice them. I'll give you an example: When Kamala first arrives in Karachi, the food she tries and the instructions she requests all serve as natural introductions to the city, its culture, and its residents. I hope we were able to accomplish that.