Exclusive: Ms. Marvel director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy on bringing the Partition to the MCU


Disclaimer: This article contains spoilers from Ms. Marvel episode 4.

In Ms. Marvel’s episode 4, Seeing Red, Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) visits Pakistan and finds new allies in the Red Daggers – Farhan Akhtar’s Waleed and Aramis Knight’s Kareem. As they go up against the Clandestines, Najma (Nimra Bucha) stabs Kamala’s supercharged bangle and it accidentally transports her back to 1947 – the era of India and Pakistan’s Partition. The episode depicts the humanitarian crisis through the last train to come to Pakistan. Kamala finds herself at the crowded railway platform with people climbing into and atop packed trains. The camera follows Kamala as she gets to a vantage point before panning out to offer a look at swarms of people trying to leave on the final train to Pakistan – a tragic event in history chronicled with gut-wrenching detail in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 
Ms. Marvel’s depiction of Pakistan and South Asian history is rooted in authenticity and is devoid of stereotypes. This includes the refreshing absence of the yellow filter most films and shows use while portraying countries from the sub-continent. To talk about the extraordinary hour of television, Filmfare caught up with Oscar-winning director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy who helmed episodes 4 and 5 of the MCU series. The filmmaker opened up about the chilling cliff-hanger ending of the fourth episode, Farhan Akhar’s much-discussed cameo and more. 

The Partition scene in Ms. Marvel episode 4 doesn’t shy away from showing the horrors of 1947. What went into creating that chilling sequence? 

I grew up listening to my grandparents’ stories of 1947 and when I was thinking about creating the Partition, I wanted it to be snatches of conversation that Kamala hears when she’s walking on the platform. And in those conversations, she feels the anguish of the families, the unfinished conversations that people were having, the nervousness people were feeling, the heartache and the heartbreak of leaving home. And I wanted to transport the audience back to 1947 through deeply personal testimonies. 

A lot of filmmakers get it wrong. So how tricky was it to achieve a sensitive portrayal in a Hollywood series?

I have been collecting the oral history of the Partition for 12 years now so I know that world really well and to me, 1947 was a lot about leaving your home. So if you listen to the way people are talking, everyone is talking about home – “I will miss you” “It’s a friendship” “Go now!” “I’m too old to travel” “Will we make it onto the last train?” It’s almost like what it feels like to leave your home and not know where you’re going and that uncertainty. So I think that the Partition is a difficult subject. It’s not a subject that you see on screen and it’s not something you see in Hollywood. I wanted to make sure that anybody watching, who has had to leave their home would have a connection to that. For me, it was more about that. 

Ms. Marvel

Episode 4 unleashes a lot of big stunning visuals and explains the Noor realm. What went into fleshing that out? 

Well, the Noor realm is sort of this realm that Nimra Bucha who is playing Kamran’s (Rish Shah) mother and the other Clandestines have this desire to go to. They’ve wanted to go to the other side for so long. So we wanted to show a glimpse of the Noor world. What was home for them? Why do they want you to go there? Fariha and Najma’s relationship and even though Fariha was vanquished, Najma continued to feel that she could make it and has that desperation to go home which again is so universal. If you ask a displaced person what would you give to go home and they would say they’d do anything. And that’s what it is about, they would do anything to go home.

What was it like working with Farhan Akhtar and Fawad Khan? 

We were working with two heartthrobs of South Asia. I think they both bring something very different into our episodes. Farhan brought this voice into the show. He was Kamala’s confidante, he basically was the wise mentor who informed her about the path that she was taking was an important one to take and he made her feel like she was a part of something bigger. And his voice was important because in essence, he became protective of her and then sacrificed himself for her. 

Ms. Marvel is currently streaming with new episodes dropping every Wednesday. 



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