The Marvel Cinematic Universe is going desi. With its upcoming Disney+ series Ms Marvel, it is introducing its first ever Pakistani female superhero–Kamala Khan. While Pakistani-Canadian actor Iman Vellani plays the title role, her family is played on the show by a trio of Indian actors. Veteran TV and film actor Mohan Kapur plays her father Yusuf Khan, Zenobia Shroff plays her mother Muneeba and Indian-American actor Saagar Shaikh plays Kamala’s older brother Amir. In a chat with Hindustan Times, the three actors spoke about how their immediate families and friends reacted to the news of them bagging an MCU project, and about Fawad Khan and Farhan Akhtar’s cameos. Also read: Ms Marvel trailer: ‘Brown girl from Jersey’ becomes a superhero, we are still looking for Fawad Khan or Farhan Akhtar
Mohan says that when he signed on for Ms Marvel, it were his nieces and nephews that went crazy about their mamu appearing in the MCU. He shares, “The elderly were like ‘good but what is Marvel’. But my nieces and nephew went crazy. They were like ‘mamu do you know what you have done?’ And them getting excited got me more excited and it hit me ‘really, that’s what I am in now’.”
For Zenobia, it was a similar experience. She said her father kept asking if she was in the Marvel Comics now. “A lot of my showbiz friends got it and they were beyond thrilled. But my family and general friends are not that much into pop culture or don’t know the impact of the Marvel Universe. I fielded questions like: ‘Is it the comic book?’ and ‘Are you animated?’” she says with a laugh . In fact, she shares that her parents have still not quite grasped how big a break this is. She adds, “Six months into the shoot, my father called and asked any good news on your end. And I said, ‘What more good news you need? I am in the Marvel Universe!’ Only Indian parents are like ‘it’s been six months, give us something more’.”
Mohan and Zenobia are both seasoned actors. He has appeared in films like Jolly LLB, Happy New Year, and Mission Mangal while she has been seen in Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu and The Big Sick to name a few. For Saagar, though, Ms Marvel is his first ‘big job’. The actor says that etelling his family about it was an emotional moment. “My mom didn’t want to know anything when I screen tested. When I told her, she said ‘kuch nahi batana mujhe, jab naukri mil jaati hai to batana (don’t tell me anything except when you get the job).” There have been so many times when I almost got a job but then I didn’t get it and I saw her pain, and so when I got this, I called her. We face-timed and we cried together because this is my first big job. It was a really special moment. My dad finally said to me after this, “Ab kuch ban sakte ho (Now you can be someone). You’ve finally got a good job,” he recalls.
The first two episodes of Ms Marvel begin streaming on Disney+ globally and on Disney+ Hotstar in India from June 8. The subsequent episodes will release weekly. And apart from Mohan, Zenobia, and Saagar, the show has some other starry subcontinental representation. Fawad Khan and Farhan Akhtar both have small roles on the show. When asked if they felt it was unfair the focus was on the two stars’ small roles over their more substantial roles, Mohan says, “They are stars. Just on hearing their names, the audience goes to buy tickets. They have earned that. We are making their mark. They are actually helping us. When we heard that Fawad and Farhan are doing it (the show), we were so excited. Imagine the flip the show is going to get in South Asia and world over, because they have fans all over. It’s a huge thing. It’s very small if you start thinking ‘I am in more episodes, so why are they talking about them’. That’s a very small way of thinking. They propped us up.”
Zenobia adds that in such situations, the artiste must focus on the product and not themselves. “You have to stay on the side of the product. You can’t be on your side. The product matters. The individual doesn’t,” she says.
The three actors’ Marvel career is just beginning. They will also appear in small roles in the upcoming Captain Marvel sequel The Marvels, reprising their Ms Marvel roles. The film, slated for release on July 28, 2023, stars Brie Larson, Samuel L Jackson, Teyonah Parris, and Iman Vellani.
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