Ms. Marvel’s Iman Vellani and Mohan Kapur Talk Cultural Pride, Hollywood and Brown Representation

Ms. Marvel's Iman Vellani
Ms. Marvel's Iman Vellani

Co-written by Ashley Ramcharan & Usha Sookai

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. Nope, it’s a brown girl from Jersey City. 

Premiering June 8, 2022, on Disney+, “Ms. Marvel” follows Kamala Khan, a 16-year-old Muslim Pakistani-American who lives an ordinary and simple life with her parents Yusuf and Muneeba and brother Aamir in Jersey City. Kamala feels like she doesn’t fit in at school and sometimes even at home. But like most teenagers, she is obsessed with superheroes – especially Captain Marvel — that is until she gets superpowers like the heroes she’s looked up to. Now she must juggle superhero life and regular teenager life. 

Co-created by G. Wilson and Sana Amanat (also serving as executive producer) and written by Bisha K. Ali, Iman Vellani, a Pakistani-Canadian actress, makes her acting debut as Kamala, whose dreams come true when she becomes the superhero, Ms. Marvel. A powerhouse actress whose creativity and love for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) spills over onto the screen, Vellani is going to surprise the audience over the course of the 6-episode series through July 13th with her wit, charm and ability to play her character’s complicated hyphenated identity as Pakistani-American superbly well. 


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After watching the first two episodes before they premiere, it’s a surreal moment to see the cast, which features many South Asian actors. It truly is a beautiful and cohesive mix of newcomers and veterans including Yasmeen Fletcher as Nakia, Matthew Lintz as Bruno, Fawad Khan as Hasan, Mohan Kapoor as Yusuf Khan (whom we interview below), Zenobia Shroff as Muneeba Khan, Rish Shah as Kamran, Nimra Bucha as Najma, Alysia Reiner as Sadie Deever, Saagar Shaikh as Aamir, and Arian Moayed as Agent P. Cleary.

The Marvels film, releasing in 2023, will see the case return and introduce Ms. Marvel to Captain Marvel and others in the MCU, which sounds like our childhood dreams are set to come alive.

Following this year’s third Slashie Summit in New York City where our attendees saw an exclusive sneak peek of the trailer, Brown Girl Mag contributors Ashley Ramcharan and Usha Sookai spoke virtually with actors Vellani and Kapur to discuss their roles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the impacts they hope to have.

The following answers have been condensed for concision and clarity. 

In conversation with Iman Vellani:

You play Marvel’s first Muslim character. Do you think the series accurately portrays your faith and culture?

“I think this is definitely a singular representation of the Muslim experience. There are two billion Muslims and South Asians in the world–this show cannot represent all of them, but it’s a good start. Honestly, we’ve tried to make Kamala as authentic and specific of a character as possible. 

Hopefully, people find something relatable, whether it’s Kamala herself, her older brother or someone in her school or community. I think that all our characters are so universal… I just got so much representation filming the show watching Nakia [who plays Kamala’s friend on the show,] pronouncing Eid Mubarak with the most flawless accent–it made my day.”

Do you feel an overwhelming expectation to represent all Muslim-desi women? How are you mentally preparing for that?

“I do not feel any pressure, I know I should but honestly I think the work is going to speak for itself. I don’t think I have to go out of my way and be the face of Muslims and South Asians everywhere. I can’t do that. 

When people see someone like me, in a setting this grand, I hope they’re inspired and realize there is space for them in this industry and know they’re allowed to take up space and have a voice. Kamala is definitely going to do that. And I just hope it has the same impact on other people as the comics did on me.”

How did you navigate the transition from being a “regular” MCU teenage superfan in high school to working with one of the biggest studios in the world?

“I did not. I’m still constantly fangirling over everything! Just Avengercon, for example, was one of the last things we shot in Atlanta. They did not let me see that set up until the day we shot it because they’re like, ‘whatever your reaction is going to be in real life is what we want for Kamala, so we’re just gonna, hide it from you.’ I’m constantly gushing over everything I’m seeing and enamored by Marvel itself–the sheer scale of these productions is insane! I’m just so lucky that I get to be the nerd to kind of represent the other nerds.”

Nia DaCosta is the first Black woman hired as a director for the MCU and The Marvels film would likely break the record for the biggest-budgeted film directed by a Black woman. What are your thoughts on this as a woman of color?

“I think Nia DaCosta is my favorite person on the planet. She’s such an actors’ director too, she really cares and takes the time to check on you. Just knowing her as a person and then seeing the way she works was so inspiring for me, because I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I was in high school. I just wanted to try everything and right now I’m getting the greatest crash course on film. I’ve worked with four different directors on ‘Ms. Marvel’ and Nia DaCosta on The Marvels, so that’s five. I’m just absorbing as much knowledge as I can. I am so happy for Nia! I think she deserves everything that’s coming her way. And I’m excited to talk about The Marvels but I can’t say anything. It’ll come soon.”

How did your identity impact your upbringing? Do you see those experiences reflected in Kamala Khan’s story?

“I think Kamala and I went on a very similar journey of self discovery and reconnecting with our roots. It’s something that I felt quite far removed from growing up. Even though I was raised with my grandparents watching Bollywood movies, my parents tried to get me to watch Pakistani dramas but I didn’t see the value in it or think it was cool. 

Honestly, I was in love with American pop culture and Hollywood. So I was like, ‘I’m gonna pick this lane, screw my culture.’ Now here I am in Hollywood working with just an insane amount of people of color, South Asians and Muslims who are all so incredibly creative and talented and cool. Seeing them be so in touch with their culture made me want to go back and reconnect with my roots. Throughout the course of the show, I started hating being in salwar-kameezes and now I am fighting in one.” 

How did you get started as an actress? Being of Pakistani descent, was your family receptive to your dream of being on the big screen?

“Yeah, my parents were super supportive. I think moving to Canada played a role. I have an older brother and they wanted us to try everything and involve ourselves in as many experiences as we could –that was why we moved. So we could have a higher quality of life and access to more things. Growing up, I was just so in love with Hollywood and film but I definitely didn’t want to be an actor. I went to an arts school so I was in theater in high school, however as soon as I went into theater I was like ‘I don’t like this.’ 

I fell in love with the ‘techy’ side of theater and was unsure of my future. That is such an insane amount of pressure to put on a 16-year-old-kid. To just ‘figure out what you want to do because whatever courses you take now that’s going to be what you’re going to do for the rest of your life.’ It’s not true. This came out of nowhere and it happened out of my pure love for Marvel and Kamala as a character. My parents could not take that away from me. They know how much I love Marvel and they definitely want to see me be as successful as possible. It was never in question if I could do this or not. They have been holding my hand throughout this entire thing.” 

[Read Related: ‘The Best way Possible’: Simone Ashley on her Whirlwind ‘Bridgerton’ Success and Celebrating South Asian Excellence]

Talk to us about your casting experience. Do you think that Hollywood and Western media offer enough major roles to South Asian actresses?

“I think it’s heading in a positive direction. I think once people see Ms. Marvel, I hope that gets the ball rolling on more opportunities. We’re getting there and hopefully this inspires more South Asian and Muslim creatives to tell their stories because Ms. Marvel can’t be the end and we can’t represent every South Asian or Muslim person. I’m excited to see what kind of projects this inspires!”  

The show has received very positive and promising reviews. How have you and your team reacted?

“It’s funny, we just did a screening in Toronto and all my friends and family that came were so happy, although it was absolutely nerve wracking for me because they watched me act for the first time. I had girls crying, saying that this is the most accurate representation they’ve ever received so far and that alone meant so much to me. My mom walked out of the theater in complete shock so I still don’t know how she feels about it, but I know she’s happy. It’s such a monumental thing.”

Iron Man is your favorite Marvel superhero. Can you tell us why?

“I have a crush on Robert Downey Junior. He’s a great character too, I guess, very cool. But Robert Downey Junior…” 

As a young South Asian woman, did you feel intimidated or have imposter syndrome at all when working with other MCU actors?

“I still have imposter syndrome. It’s super weird because I’m working with people who I have posters of in my room, and it’s super meta. I really don’t know how to put it into words because all I think about is like ‘God, you guys were looking for a Ms. Marvel for two years and this is the best you can do?’ 

It just wasn’t clicking to me that this even happened because I have no connections to Hollywood whatsoever. The closest thing I have is my drama teacher knows Ed Norton’s wife–that was it. It’s super surreal and, honestly, seeing the billboards and the trailers is easing my nerves and making it feel more real in my head as well.” 

Everyone loves a girl power moment. Can you share any details on whether you and Xochitl Gomez (America from Dr. Strange and the Multiverse) will team up in the future?

“Oh my god, I would love to! We were literally at dinner talking about it. If it doesn’t happen, we’re going to make our own short film and do it.” 

What’s your advice to aspiring South Asian actors and actresses?

“I hope that you find a passion and explore it. Honestly, there’s so much pressure, being a ‘first’ of something and Hollywood is slowly getting into true inclusivity and really representing people the way we want to be seen. I hope they have a hand in telling their own stories and bringing parts of their life into whatever work that they end up doing because that’s honestly what I ended up doing and I think that’s what made our character as authentic as possible. 

It’s important to voice how you feel because as soon as you start generalizing ‘brown people’ you’re not representing anyone. We can be used as a resource in telling our own stories. There are people who will listen.” 

In conversation with Mohan Kapur:


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Tell us about your experience with Marvel. You’ve done tons of voiceovers, but how is your role in Ms. Marvel different from what you’ve previously done?

“The voice overs, they were just voice overs. I was giving my voice for other actors playing characters. This is me. This is Mohan Kapur playing Yusuf Khan for the first time ever—my soiree, my debut into Hollywood and Hollywood’s biggest production company, Marvel Studios. So, it’s a world of difference. The difference is as much as audio and visual.” 

What was that transition like, with this being your first time in Hollywood? What has that experience been like for you?

“To use a very cliche line, it is marvelous. It’s something that I wouldn’t even have dreamt of. It happened and I was just so humbled by the whole experience and then the experience of shooting in Hollywood with the whole Marvel vision, it blew my mind. It catapulted me into another realm as an actor and as a person. I’m so glad I got to play Yusuf Khan because he’s going to be cherished.”  

I would imagine so. Describe Kamala and Yusuf’s relationship. Does their father-daughter dynamic combat stereotypes about South Asian families?

“Kamala is a daughter that Muniba and I have had after many years of wanting a second child, and we almost gave up hope on that and then she happened, which is why she is a wonder for us and a miracle for us. I don’t have a child of my own, let alone a daughter, but I always would’ve loved to have a child. 

So when I got this opportunity to play a dad to Iman and we got into the reading space, it was magical. I knew she was born to play Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel. It was just intrinsic. It was just magic because it was organic. We didn’t have to work on anything. Of course we had the script, but after that, it was just us. It was magical and precious.” 

How do you think seeing a South Asian actor in Western media impacts the wider South Asian community and what do you hope to see going forward?

“When the news that Mohan Kapur from India is playing Yusuf Khan, father to Ms. Marvel — Kamala Khan — it was like wildfire because I hadn’t told anybody. Everyone was like ‘oh wow, oh wow,’ and then I realized the impact it had. The Indian community felt proud of the achievement. It was providence that I got the role, but after that I saw the coming together of my country, my friends, people on social media and across communities. It was across community lines and it was beautiful because one of us, as in one of them, has made it over there (in the US). 

It became my responsibility to make my country proud and make the character lovable. We believe that we’ve achieved that. It’s a huge step forward for the South Asian community and with Marvel at the helm of things, it’s going to open up doors. People are going to say ‘hey, Marvel has made the start, which means it can work.’ They’re going to start seeing it as what this community stands for and what you can do with this community.”

As Vellani and Kapur bring their multifaceted characters to life, South Asians will be cheering them on and looking forward to the work of other South Asian storytellers. The father-daughter duo will make their debut on June 8, when “Ms. Marvel” premieres on Disney+. “Ms. Marvel” may be the first to bring a Muslim superhero to mainstream media, but it certainly won’t be the last. 

Photo courtesy of Irvin Rivera (@graphicsmetropolis), exclusively for @browngirlmag’s June digital cover, created by in-house designer Aishwarya Sukesh (@aishwarya_sukesh).

By Brown Girl Magazine

Brown Girl Magazine was created by and for South Asian womxn who believe in the power of storytelling as a … Read more ›

The Poetry Film Breaking Genres and National Borders

“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.

[Read Related: Poetry That Reflects the Fire Inside]

[Read Related: A Bengali Muslim Boy’s Poetic Journey Through Himself]

After So Long (English Translation)

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,)
Kya karu?
(What should I do?)
Kaha jau?
(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)
Barso baad.
(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)
Wahi dil,
(The same heart)
Baarso baad.
(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)
barso baad
(After so long)
Kabhi hum milenge kisi mor pe
(Someday, we’ll meet again, somewhere on this road)
barso baad
(After so long)

[Read Related: How to Follow Your Heart, Even When it’s Hard]


Poem by Simha & Jae
Produced by Star Hopper Studios
Directed by Varsha Panikar
Cinematography and grading by Tanmay Chowdhary
Editing by Asawari Jagushte
Featuring Vaishakh Sudhakaran
Music Production by Simha
Hindi editing by Rama Garimella
Recited by Simha, Rama Garimella, Annaji Garimella
English Translation by Nhylar

The opinions expressed by the guest writer/blogger and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Brown Girl Magazine, Inc., or any employee thereof. Brown Girl Magazine is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the guest writer/bloggers. This work is the opinion of the blogger. It is not the intention of Brown Girl Magazine to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, or individual. If you’d like to submit a guest post, please follow the guidelines we’ve set forth here.
By Varsha Panikar

Varsha Panikar (they/he) is a filmmaker, writer and multi-disciplinary artist from India. They are the co-founder of Star Hopper, a … Read more ›

How ‘RRR’ Changed the American Perception of the Indian Film Industry

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.”

[Read Related: On the Road to the Oscars: M.M. Keeravani and Chandrabose’s ‘Naatu Naatu’ Redefines the World’s View of Indian Music]

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.


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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. 

[Read Related: Sri Rao and the Future of South Asian Diasporic Cinema]

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

The opinions expressed by the writer of this piece, and those providing comments thereon (collectively, the “Writers”), are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Brown Girl Magazine, Inc., or any of its employees, directors, officers, affiliates, or assigns (collectively, “BGM”). BGM is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the Writers. It is not the intention of Brown Girl Magazine to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, or individual. If you have a complaint about this content, please email us at This post is subject to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. If you’d like to submit a guest post, please follow the guidelines we’ve set forth here.
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By S. Kavi

S. Kavi is a South Indian American writer, poet, and artist. Her work involves the exploration of South Indian culture, … Read more ›

‘What’s Love Got To Do With It’: A Modern-day Exploration of Love Across Cultures

What's Love Got To Do With It

It is the strength of both British and South Asian cinema that every few years, and with increasing regularity, a film comes along that is able to successfully and thoughtfully bridge the highs and lows of both cultures. With the recognisable cross-cultural DNA of films like “Bend it Like Beckham”, “Bride and Prejudice and others before it, Shekhar Kapur brings to the silver screen an honest and comedic representation of East meets West with “What’s Love Got To Do With It” — an exploration of love and marriage across international norms. 

[Read Related: Joyland: A Film Rising Above Unacceptability With a Story of Acceptance]

Written and produced by Jemima Khan, the film draws from elements of her own experience of marrying then-Pakistani cricket star and now ex-Prime Minister, Imran Khan, and relocating to the country for 10 years.

“Particularly in the West, Pakistanis would quite often be seen as terrorists, fanatics and backwards,” says Khan, as she reminisces about her time spent in Pakistan over Zoom. “My experience of living in Pakistan was very colourful, vibrant, and fun. I always felt like the rom-com side of Pakistan was more surprising than anything else.”

 A film not just about the heart, but with a lot of heart of its own, “What’s Love Got To Do With It” touches on South Asian families, culture, individuality, and marriages in the 21st century. Set in the UK and Pakistan, this is a feel-good and fun story about childhood best friends and neighbours, Zoe and Kazim, AKA Kaz. And as the narrative unfolds, new light is shone on their friendship and questions are asked about the cultural norms and practices we have grown to accept.

It isn’t your usual ‘boy-meets-girl’ tale. On the contrary, they’ve known each other forever; the fabric of their lives intertwined. Kaz is a British-Pakistani doctor of “marriageable” age, opting for an “assisted” marriage set in motion by his own desire rather than parental duress. 

“I think we’ve replaced the term “arranged” with “assisted” because South Asian parents now trust their kids more to make the right decision for themselves,” said Shahzad Latif, sitting next to Lily James, who nods in agreement. “It’s still a process. Some parents may have more confidence in their kids than others, but we’re getting there.”

Zoe – played by Lily James – is a professional documentary maker living on an inexplicably fancy houseboat (bit of a stretch for somebody having difficulty funding projects, but, at this point, a crucial ingredient for London rom-coms). As a white British woman, her method of finding love isn’t one that involves parents or family.

“It was a no-brainer for me to be part of the script,” says a smiling James in response to whether any culture shocks were encountered during filming and table reads. “Pakistani culture is so rich and colourful, and it was important for me to showcase this side of the country. So no, no culture shocks per se, just more singing and dancing in comparison to British culture!”

Zoe’s camera is the vehicle through which the film examines Kaz’s “contractual love”, as she trawls dating apps while following her best friend down the assisted aisle.

What's Love Got To Do With It
Emma Thompson, who plays the role of Zoe’s mother in the film, with Shabana Azmi.

Emma Thompson’s Cath plays the comedic matriarch to Zoe, eager to witness the conclusion of her daughter’s swiping days by being with someone suitable. She’s found a family in Shabana Azmi’s Aisha Khan – a more layered mum — one that is embracing both tradition and modernity. It would be fair to say that Azmi successfully sells cinema-goers on the difficulty of that struggle.

“Today’s society is slowly coming to terms with providing children the space they rightfully require and deserve to make decisions,” says Azmi, reflecting on how scripts and films have evolved over time. “Gone are the days when parents would blackmail their children into marrying the first person they come across. Just because they are their kids doesn’t mean they are actually children. They are adults with views and minds of their own.”

Kaz is then introduced to Maimoona (Sajal Aly); a shy introvert from Pakistan, unsure about the idea of moving permanently to London. She’s dealing with internal battles of her own; battles between personal desires and societal expectations.

“Maimoona may not have verbally said much, but her face said everything,” explains Aly, looking beautiful and radiant as ever. “She is torn between what she wants and what society silently shoves down at her and eventually, she goes with what the latter expects.”

The film navigates between London and a fabricated Lahore filmed in the suburbs of the British capital; a feat that comes as testament to the film’s production design. Kaz and Zoe’s jaunts across Lahore, backdropped by its magnificent architecture, set the stage for Pakistani music legends to shine, including the mesmerising voice of Rahet Fateh Ali Khan. 

What's Love Got To Do With It
Pakistani actress Sajal Aly plays Maimoona — torn between her own desires and society’s expectations.

And if this wasn’t enough, Nitin Sawhney and Naughty Boy add further melody to the film’s music, as they talk about their experience of creating appropriate tunes such as the foot-thumping “Mahi Sona”. 

“It was a great process and experience to create an appropriate language and expression of music which added elements and flavours to the film,” says the duo enthusiastically. “It’s also an ode to our South Asian heritage.”

Even though the tone of “What’s Love Got To Do With It” is distinctly feel-good, the film thoughtfully explores the unconventional ways that relationships may be built, and what multiculturalism can teach one another. Is it, in fact, more sensible to be practical about relationships? Is it possible to learn to love the person we’re with? Is love really the only ingredient needed for a successful marriage? Why was Kaz’s sister shunned for marrying outside of their culture? And do Western relationships draw more on the ideas of assisted partnerships than we realise?

A clever reference is drawn from the moment Prince Charles shattered many royal dreamers’ hearts with his dismissive “whatever in love means” comment upon his engagement to Princess Diana, thus proving that these notions may be closer to home in the West than one might believe.

James and Latif are a charismatic pair, with Zoe married to her independence and Kaz gently questioning her prejudices. The film is also a vivid demonstration of British talent, with Asim Chaudhry playing a hilarious yet questionable rishta uncle, comic duo Ben Ashenden and Alex Owen appearing as a pair of TV commissioners with a briefcase of ridiculous ideas, and Nikkita Chadha as the confrontational Baby — the film’s feisty rebel, in love with dancing. 

[Read Related: Ms. Marvel’s Iman Vellani and Mohan Kapur Talk Cultural Pride, Hollywood and Brown Representation]

“It’s incredible to be part of such a diverse and stellar cast,” smiles Chadha animatedly, while sipping on tea at Soho House in London. “My character is defiant and nonconformist — perfectly conflicting with the name “Baby “. I’m really excited for everyone to watch the film.”

Divorce is still stigmatised in South Asia — a theme often carefully avoided in desi films and television. Khan gently addresses it as a twist in the film – with a reminder that be it love or assisted marriage — amicable and mutual separations are a possibility.

As a complete package, “What’s Love Got To Do With It” deftly wraps up all the emotions associated with love and family in its joyful, musical, and vibrant 109-minute runtime. With its cast, music and direction, this classic rom-com is set to make you laugh, cry and, even more importantly, make you think about the multi-dimensional nature of love within and across cultures. The film is now showing in cinemas worldwide, and we highly recommend it.

Photos Courtesy: Studiocanal/Working Title

This piece is written by Brown Girl writer Queenie Shaikh in collaboration with Marium Abid

Desk bound by day and travel bound all other times – Queenie thrives on her weekly dose of biryani and chilli paneer. She recently released her first book called The Poor Londoner, which talks about comical expat experiences people face worldwide. With degrees in Journalism and Creative Writing, her work and research on gender inequality in the travel industry is taught in universities across the globe. Her travels and everyday fails can be found on Instagram (@thepoorlondoner) and YouTube (The Poor Londoner).

Originally from Karachi, Pakistan and now blended into the hustle-bustle of London, Marium is a trainee technology consultant, by day and sometime also night, and also finishing her bachelors in Digital Innovation. In the midst of striving to be someone, she enjoys dreaming about the impossible (impossible according to desi standards and sometime Harry Potter impossible as well), and writing about them. She enjoys baking, decorating things and a cup of chai!