I got into the Marvel universe seven years ago when I watched “Captain America: The First Avenger.” I admit that I was probably living under a rock because until then I had no idea who Chris Evans or Steve Rogers was. Needless to say, I’m very happy with how that movie turned out! Chris Evans is my celebrity crush, and I’ve been a fan of the franchise ever since. In fact, “I can do this all day” is my favorite Marvel/Captain America quote.
Whether you’re a Marvel aficionado, or just discovering the universe, you don’t want to miss “Avengers: Infinity War,” premiering Friday, April 27th. (BTW, have you seen Chris Evans’ beard in the movie trailers? Be still my heart!)
“Avengers: Infinity War” is predicted to be one of the most profitable movies in US cinematic history, with pre-sales surpassing those of all 18 Marvel movies combined. I’m super excited!
Because there is so much information to remember from the entirety of this comic book/film universe, here is a handy cheat guide to the 18 movies and their relation to the “Avengers: Infinity War” main premise: The Infinity Stones.
Before we get into the movies themselves, I think the best way to start is with an introduction to Infinity Stones. The simplest explanation was given by The Collector in “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Played by a very blonde and haunting Benicio Del Toro, it is quite convincing.
“Before creation itself, there were six singularities, then the universe exploded into existence and the remnants of this system were forged into concentrated ingots. Infinity Stones.”
There are six infinity stones each with its own purpose: Space, Mind, Reality, Power, Soul, and Time. Whoever controls all six stones and activates them together using the Infinity Gauntlet has the power to reshape reality itself.
Over the past 10 years, all Marvel movies and characters have shed light on these stones and their impact/purpose. All of these movies have been, in many ways, leading up to the epic saga that is “Avengers: Infinity War.”
“Iron Man” (2008), “Iron Man 2” (2010), “Iron Man 3” (2013)
Iron Man is the movie that started it all. The Iron Man suit was powered by an arc reactor. With subtle hints that the arc reactor was created via help from the Space Stone (i.e. The Tesseract), this movie gave us our first peek into the powerful energy source that exists beyond Earth, the superhero universe as well as The Avenger Initiative.
Tony Stark’s character evolution is one of my favorites as he continues to push the boundaries of ethics & science with the help of his A.I. sidekick, J.A.R.V.I.S., while risking everything to save Earth. Part philanthropist, part a**hole, he is one of the most conflicted characters besides The Hulk, and arguably one of the most iconic.
The “Iron Man” movies also introduce Pepper Potts, the CEO of Stark Industries and Tony Stark’s love interest. I loved her in “Iron Man 3” where she acquires superpowers and kicks some villain butt.
The other female powerhouse is The Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson, whose fight scenes are just killer. I hope someone creates a Black Widow workout. I also love her various hairstyles through the Marvel movies. The girl keeps it fresh.
“The Incredible Hulk” (2008)
Not part of the new cast of Marvel movies, “The Incredible Hulk” is my least favorite of the movies since it was created before “Iron Man.” Played by Edward Norton (not Mark Ruffalo who is the current Hulk in the movies) it revealed Bruce Banner’s, a Nuclear physicist’s transformation into The Incredible Hulk due to gamma radiation exposure as he tries to recreate a super soldier like Captain America. However, it’s plotline relation to the Infinity Space Stones — and by association, “Avengers: Infinity War” — is quite weak.
I just like Mark Ruffalo so much better as the Hulk. Maybe because when we first see him in the movies, he’s busy being a Hindi-speaking doctor in a small village in India, and gets swindled by a cute little Indian girl. Namaste to you, girl! You just earned yourself a hot, crispy samosa.
“Thor” (2011), “Thor: The Dark World” (2013), “Thor: Ragnarock” (2017)
Thor’s character comes from Viking-like mythology, and it is a glimpse into a superhero from another dimension. Anthony Hopkins plays Odin as the ruler of Asgard, Odin, and Thor’s father, while Tom Hiddleston plays Loki, his adopted brother who is a playful yet dangerous villain with very greasy hair. Natalie Portman plays Jane Foster, Thor’s love interest, and a very smart astrophysicist from Earth with perfect hair.
Jane first interacts with the Reality Stone (Aether) in “Thor: The Dark World,” while it is in a fluid-like state. This stone has the ability to effectively change reality and control individual minds. She is “possessed by it” temporarily, resulting in extremely violent elves arriving at Asgard to steal it. Her hair continues to be perfect through all the fighting.
Of the series, “Thor: Ragnarok” is a must-see with its balance of quirky humor, a wide array of kick-ass characters like the very tough Valkyrie (I had a girl crush on her, so I worry about how much she drinks) and the remarkably sexy evil queen, Hela.
“Captain America: The First Avenger” (2011), “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” (2014), “Captain America: Civil War” (2016)
Oh Captain America. I wish you were real and still lived in Brooklyn since I do. The “Captain America” films are absolutely heartwarming to me. Full of earnest. genuine friendship, loyalty, betrayal and heartbreak, these movies are a must see.
These movies clearly reveal the historical connection Earth has had to the Infinity Stones by introducing The Space Stone and its sometimes horrific impact on the characters. The Space Stone is a weaponizable energy source and can be used as a gateway into space.
Of all the series, I recommend watching all the Captain America movies prior to “Avengers: Infinity War” if you can, especially “Civil War” to understand some character dynamics that may come back into play.
“The Avengers” (2012), “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015)
First mentioned in “Iron Man,” the Avengers initiative begins in these movies after Thor’s brother Loki steals the Space Stone (The Tesseract), to invade Earth. Bringing together Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, the Hulk, and other heroes, The Avengers save Earth from invasion.
“Avengers: Age of Ultron” also introduces the Mind Stone which is capable of creating, manipulating and changing individuals. I recommend watching “Age of Ultron” because it has one of the scariest villains in the movies, in my opinion.
It also debuts a new Avenger, Vision created via The Mind Stone. Vision is a hybrid between artificial intelligence, super strength as well as an almost human-like existence. Vision is positioned to play a pivotal role in “Avengers: Infinity War” due to The Mind Stone that empowers him.
“Guardians of the Galaxy” (2014), “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” (2017)
Set in outer space, its main character Peter Quill steals the Power stone (the Orb) from an abandoned planet, resulting in an assassin coming after him. Don’t you hate when that happens?
The Guardians of The Galaxy are almost a misfit version of The Avengers including a raccoon, a speaking tree, and a green Joe Saldana. Her character, Gamora, is a tough and fast-moving fighter, and extremely sarcastic. It’s not easy being green but she makes it hot. It’s also important to note that Gamora, one of the Guardians, was raised by Thanos — the all-powerful villain in “Avengers: Infinity War,” and a character we’ve seen throughout the Marvel franchise.
The Power Stone gives the person who wields it the power to destroy an entire planet as its power is proportional to the organic matter it touches. The Power Stone makes the “Guardians of the Galaxy” movies integral to the “Avengers: Infinity War” storyline — and it doesn’t hurt that both films are wildly entertaining.
“Ant-Man” is extremely fun and shows a different perspective (a smaller perspective, if you will). Scott Lang, the main character, steals the Ant-Man suit without realizing its shrinking technology. Recruited to become Ant-Man and stop the villain, Yellow Jacket, Scott Lang is an unlikely hero.
Played by Paul Rudd (who clearly does not age in real life), this movie is a great precursor to “Captain America: Civil War,” as Ant-Man gets to fight with and against some of the Avengers teammates.
“Doctor Strange” (2016)
Similar in many ways to Iron Man/Tony Stark, Dr. Strange is an arrogant, self-centered, rich neurosurgeon. An accident causing nerve damage to his hands results in a journey of self-discovery, magic, and the Time Stone.You will find yourself forgiving his arrogance because of his British accent and his very well-groomed mustache.
With the Time Stone, he is able to bend space, time and reality – as well as save the Earth from invaders from The Dark Dimension.
“Dr. Strange” is intriguing with its time loop storyline. Although his character’s arc is not as developed as that of Iron Man, his strong desire to save the Earth and the evolution of his abilities become apparent in “Thor: Ragnarok.”
“Spider-Man: Homecoming” (2017)
This is my favorite Spiderman to date. While most of us are quite familiar with the story of Spiderman/Peter Parker, this particular one is very well cast and Peter’s constant desire to connect with Tony Stark is endearing.
Deemed the youngest (and chattiest) Avenger, this is the first time we see Peter Parker as part of the Avengers family. While his direct relation to Infinity Stones isn’t as clear yet, one of my favorite quotes is from Spiderman when speaking to Captain America.
“You’re wrong. You think you’re right. And that makes you dangerous.”
This clearly foreshadows the ominous nature of Thanos, our Marvel universe ultimate big bad. Thanos’ extreme moral code and his perception that he is right and has to save the universe from itself makes him a very dangerous villain.
Black Panther (2018)
There are not enough words to sing the praises of “Black Panther.” Set in the country of Wakanda it is the most beautiful & technologically advanced place hidden from the the outside world. It’s key character, T’Challa, aka The Black Panther, is first seen in “Captain America: Civil War,” where is he is seeking revenge for his father’s death and ends up becoming one of the Avengers. Although not blatantly mentioned, the Soul Stone is suspected to be present in Wakanda due to a meteor hit.
The Soul Stone is able to influence the souls of the living, the deceased as well as give the power over all life in the universe. In the prologue of the movie, we’re told that many years ago, a meteor made of the strongest metal on earth, Vibranium, hit Wakanda. We also see a heart-shaped glowing herb that allows the people of Wakanda to get transported to another dimension and communicate with deceased loved ones, which is one of the key characteristics of the Soul Stone. We shall see whether this is true, hopefully in “Avengers: Infinity War!”
The female empowerment in this movie is off the charts. “Black Panther” is rarely without his all-female army who are some of the most beautiful, powerful on-screen female fighters I have ever seen. And his mother and sister are no different. All scenes with sister, Shuri, a tech genius with a great sense of humor, are inspiring. Played by Letitia Wright, Shuri’s one to keep an eye on.
If you haven’t watched “Black Panther,” do so immediately!
And that’s a wrap! It saddens me to say that because truth be told, I can do this all day. I’ll see you at “Avengers: Infinity War,” and all the Marvel movies beyond. Until then, all my infinite love.
As a South Indian American, I am aware of how non-brown Americans view the Indian film industry. One word: Bollywood. Bollywood and the South Indian film industry has always been lumped into the same category as Bollywood, despite the diversity. For Indians, South India is obviously different from North India, but non-brown people assume it would all be the same. This extends beyond Indian cinema; feeding into assumptions regarding other aspects of culture like language, food, and so on. People tend to assume all Indians speak Hindi or eat tikka masala at home rather than trying to understand the diversity of Indian culture. With time, especially with the help of social media, there was more accessibility to understanding the differences among these cultures, yet nothing truly spread across the globe. Then came “RRR.”
“RRR” is a Telugu film from Tollywood. This South Indian film has become a worldwide sensation with its incredible visual effects, captivating plot, and catchy music. I was blown away by the reception this film got in the United States, especially from American film critics who were all praise. What impressed me the most was how more Americans clarified it was not a Bollywood film, and differentiated it as a Tollywood film. The number of people taking the time to learn the difference between Tollywood and Bollywood might seem simple, yet meaningful, nonetheless. South Indian films are incredibly underrated and are finally getting the attention they deserved. It is incredible to see the celebration surrounding the film and what it represents and means to this community and how we get to share it with the world. The hype was real, and then the awards season began.
The Golden Globes top the list of some of the major awards for television and film and it was amazing to hear that “RRR” had been nominated in two categories for this award. Funnily enough in my own world, it aired on my birthday. Then came the moment when Jenna Ortega said “Naatu Naatu, RRR” and the song played as M.M. Keeravani approached the stage to accept his award. This song became the first Asian, not only Indian, song to win the Golden Globe for Best Original Song. The 80th Golden Globes saw many wins for the Asian community with films like “Everything Everywhere All At Once” and “RRR.” There is something beautiful about being South Indian in America and watching a South Indian song win an award in America on one’s birthday. There is a joy in getting to tell my friends, both brown and non-brown, about it and share the song, “Naatu Naatu,” with them. Sure it is Indian, but it is just a bit closer to home, and that closeness stands with a beautiful meaning. When it came to the Critics’ Choice Awards, it was touching to hear about how S.S. Rajamouli grew up with the encouragement of creativity and storytelling. It honestly inspired me to continue my own projects; I hope to see them prosper as well.
After the win at the Golden Globes, the Oscars became highly anticipated for the Indian community, especially when the nominations for Best Original Song were announced. Of course, when the familiar title appeared once again, a victory felt within grasp. “Naatu Naatu” had a couple of big moments at the Academy Awards ceremony: the performance and the win itself. The performance was introduced by the absolutely phenomenal actress, Deepika Padukone, who, too, is s South Indian. Her introduction of the song brought forward the context in which the tune takes place, that is during 1920 under the British colonization of India. She reminded all of us of how significant the song was along with its catchy beat. When it came to the announcement of who won Best Original Song, it was a first-of-its-kind victory given that it was the first time an Indian film won in this category. The speech made by M. M. Keeravani was beautiful as he sang to the tune of “Top of the World” with his own lyrics to take in the moment. It was certainly an extremely proud day to be Indian anywhere in the world, and especially to be a South Indian.
Seeing non-brown folks acknowledging the diversity of Indian culture has been beautiful to witness. The cultural pride of saying an Indian film, specifically a South Indian film, won the Oscar, a Golden Globe for Best Original Song and two Critics’ Choice Awards so far is an absolute joy. Seeing South Indian representation, especially during the awards season, is inspiring for brown creatives. This has been a time of great cultural pride in the South Indian community, and as a South Indian creative myself, I am honored to see it.
Photo Courtesy: Netflix
“After so Long” is a poetry film created for Simha’s EP, which is streaming on Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music. The poem was collaboratively written by Simha, a U.S. native, and Jae, who is based in India, during the 2020 lockdown. “After so Long” was recited by Simha and their parents. In 2022, I directed and produced the film through my studio, Star Hopper. “After so Long” premiered on Nowness Asia in March 2022.
This film is a worldwide collaboration among trans and queer south-Asian artists from the United States, India and Canada. It was recorded, shot and filmed during the lockdown of 2020 and 2021.
Awake at 10 am but out of bed at noon,
I want to be here where I lose myself in these sheets
Glancing through half-shut eyes
At the gold pressing past my window
The glimmer remarks on the ledge of my bed
But the voices are so loud
Like dust collecting in the corner of my room
I am unaware to why I’m still here
With the chilling doubt of the breeze…
I’m swept into lucidity After so long
Mil rahi hoon mein aaj iske saang barso baad,
(Today, I’ll be meeting them after so long)
Koi paata nahi diya tune
(But with no destination sight,)
(What should I do?)
(Where should I go?)
Shayad agar mein chalne lagoon,
(Perhaps, if I keep walking)
Inn yaadon ki safar mein
(Down this road of memories)
Mujhe samajh mein ayega,
(I will find out)
Yeh rasta kahaan jayega,
(Where this road leads)
Inn aari tedhi pakadandiyon pe baarte hi jaana hai,
(Through the twists and turns of this winding roads, I must keep going on)
Mujhe mil na hain aaj uske saath,
(I wish to meet them today)
(After so long)
I feel like I’m retracing my footsteps
From these concrete stretches
To broken cement walls
Chips and cracks forge their way for new designs
I see the old abandoned buildings
That once held the warmth of bodies
Now just hold memories
Supporting the nature’s resilience
In vines and moss
After so long
Dhoondli shishe mein jaaga leli hai
(These isty mirrors have offered refuge)
Bikhri hui laatao ne,
(To these scattered vines)
Zameen pe uchi ghaas pe
(Amidst the tall grass stretching from the ground)
Lehrati kamsan kaliyaa
(The swaying little buds)
Bheeni bheeni khushboo bikhereti
(Spreading honeysuckle scent through the air)
Phir wahi mausam,
(I lose myself in reminiscing, the same season)
(The same heart)
(After so long)
Phir bhi mein chal rahi hoon aaj
(Still, I keep carrying on today)
Khudko khudse milane ke liye
(In the pursuit of my higher self)
Inn galiyo se guzarna hain aaj
(I must pass through these streets today)
Chaalte chaale jaana hai aaj
(I must keep going on today)
Kabhi hum milenge kisi mor paar
(Someday, we’ll meet again, somewhere on this road)
(After so long)
Kabhi hum milenge kisi mor pe
(Someday, we’ll meet again, somewhere on this road)
(After so long)
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Haider wades his way through Karachi’s expansive beach, climbing and tumbling over rocks, in Mumtaz’s memory. The vast landscape is perfectly encapsulated in the 4:3 aspect ratio — an unconventional yet welcoming choice. He vanishes into the sea, leaving his storyline open-ended. The screen fades to black. The film comes to a close. The gentle humming and lapping of the waves disappear. However, I stay put. Stumped, and unable to comprehend the masterpiece that Saim Sadiq, director of “Joyland”, has blessed Pakistanis with.
“It’s so important to narrate these stories in today’s world, where we’re often divided and seldom united,” says producer Apoorva Charan during an exclusive chat with Brown Girl Magazine.
It’s her feature film debut as a producer, and she’s justifiably beaming with pride.
Joyland is such a win for South Asia, but particularly, Pakistani storytelling. Every person I met, I felt like there was some characteristic or quirk about them that mirrored our characters in the film.
Set in the depths of androon Lahore, “Joyland” primarily revolves around Haider (Ali Junejo) — a meek, unemployed house husband in a borderline, passionless marriage. He’s happily helping Saleem bhai (Sohail Sameer) and Nucci bhabi (Sarwat Gilani) raise three kids, while the fourth one breaks Nucci’s water in the opening scene. Another girl is born, despite the ultrasound’s previous declaration of a baby boy.
“If I were to receive an award based on my character in “Joyland”, it’d definitely be for “best at single-handedly increasing the population of Pakistan,” says Gillani, as we howl with laughter during our spoiler-riddled chat with the cast of the film. “I think that, combined with the ‘coolest bhabi’ — those two will have my name on them.”
But Nucci’s wasn’t just a bhabi who pumped out a new baby every year. Sarwat’s character was given some level of agency — a woman who reminisced about a career in interior design before marriage and kids while smoking a cigarette in secrecy.
I think my philanthropic work plays a part in how I started saying no to bechari roles. How can I be a role model to these women I’m trying to help, while playing the same characters? The change came about with “Churails” and I vehemently stuck to it. My characters need to have a voice; a backbone.
On the other hand, Haider’s wife, Mumtaz (Rasti Farooq), works as a beautician at the local salon, busy dolling up brides in Lahore’s unpredictable load-shedding.
Both Haider and Mumtaz seem to have a relatively stable marriage based equally on societal expectations and gender-flipped roles. While Haider stays home, helps in the kitchen, and attempts at searching for a traditional job, Mumtaz carves autonomy and independence for herself. This is in spite of an oppressive family life characterised and dictated by Haider’s overly conservative, traditionalist father and patriarch, Rana (Salmaan Peerzada), who wishes for the couple to procreate a cricket team of just boys.
But Rana, known as Abba Jee, is also layered with his own 50 shades of grey, struggling with loneliness and a lack of intimacy, mirrored in his relationship with next-door neighbour Fayyaz (Sania Saeed). His emotional desires are symbolised by his physical impediments — the former handicapped with “what will people say”, and the latter with a wheelchair. The rules that he has for his children are the same that his children have for him, bound by tradition, norms, and society. They are not allowed to stray from what is considered “normal”.
The film’s women are strong which is pretty much a reflection of the women in Sadiq’s life. While Abba Jee shuns the love and companionship that Fayyaz offers, she stands her ground until firmly asked to leave. The complexity of each person’s emotions versus expectations is what makes “Joyland” relatable on a human level.
Alternatively, Mumtaz’s relationship with Haider is based on convenience and habit, where two people share the same bed but sleep facing away (partially because one of Saleem and Nucci’s young daughters crashes with them every night, illustrating the confined space both Haider and Mumtaz are allowed to be themselves in). The dynamics of their marriage drastically evolve once Haider’s eye catches Biba (Alina Khan), covered in blood as she walks numbingly into the hospital where Nucci gave birth. The introductory scene mirrored the brutal reality of violence inflicted upon Pakistan’s trans community; one of “Joyland’s” most haunting moments.
Mumtaz is asked to quit her job once Haider lands a gig as a “theatre manager” — a cover-up for his job as a background dancer at the nightclub Biba coincidentally performs at. The film portrays the traditional Pakistani marital social dynamic; men must work, and women must housekeep. Even when some level of independence is allowed to a married woman, she must forego her right to a career later in life. Understandably, it leaves Mumtaz devastated.
“It’s so strange how that’s just an acceptable act in our society,” Farooq chimes in, voicing Mumtaz’s thoughts. “Even if a woman is good at a 100 things, ultimately, she’s expected to quit her job to be a homemaker because that’s ‘her job’.”
With time, Haider falls into a routine and rhythm of working at the theatre and spending more time with Biba, allowing him an insight into the widespread transphobia she’s regularly faced with. Biba confides her innermost desire to be what she termed as “a complete woman” in order to land the same dancing opportunities as her counterparts.
Haider’s daring closeness to Biba leaves Mumtaz — who at this point is reliant on him as a best friend more than the physical intimacy he fitfully provides her — alone, isolated, and depressed. For Haider, it is liberating to leave problems at home and escape into a secret world centred around his deepest desires. He doesn’t want to be a bad person. He doesn’t wish to hurt or leave his wife. But his happiness now seemingly lies in dancing and exchanging stolen kisses with Biba. Farooq agrees:
I think Mumtaz and Haider were best friends at this point. They had an unspoken love for each other, which stemmed from the sanctity of their relationship. They might not be in love but they did love each other. In the eyes of our society and otherwise, they were married, but they’d drifted so far apart. There was love but it wasn’t possible to return from how distant they were.
This point of no return brings Haider to a crossroads — one where he is torn between his loyalty to Mumtaz and his love for Biba. Ultimately and ironically, in a particularly passionate moment, it is his curiosity pertaining to Biba’s sexuality that drives her to throw him out of her life. Defeated and guilt-ridden, he comes face-to-face with a pregnant and non-confrontational Mumtaz, who, by now, is aware of what Haider has been up to but doesn’t have the mental capacity to verbally digest his infidelity alongside a child she doesn’t want.
Her apprehensions about bearing and raising children are indicated throughout the early days of her pregnancy. The clutching of her stomach, the tightening of the rollercoaster belt during a visit to Joyland park, and her unease during the ultrasound are just a few examples of Mumtaz’s angst.
Abba Jee’s 70th birthday was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Mumtaz, surrounded by family and friends and feeling emptier than ever, takes her own life. A tragic full circle where one life ends as the other begins. Her suicide is harbingered by Rana’s birthday speech as he recalls a palmist once saying his bloodline would end with Haider.
“Joyland” is replete with polarity. There is a seamless hand-in-hand flow of happiness and devastation, longing and antipathy, birth and death. Pakistani society’s struggles with misogynistic gender roles are depicted in the most gentle, sensitive, and nuanced ways. The struggle is also ironic, considering Pakistan has one of the most progressive transgender legislations in the world. Trans people have the right to self-identify their gender in Pakistan – a right still denied to the trans community in many progressive countries, such as the UK.
A deeply reflective film with memorable and emotional characters doing justice to their performances. It’s currently running in cinemas here in the UK, and we highly recommend watching this poignant piece of art.