The new Indian Spiderman: Breaking through Universes and stereotypical barriers

Indian Spider-Man, publicity photo. PHOTO: Twitter @Spider-Man

“I love chai tea,” says Marvel’s animated Spider-Verse series’s main character Miles Morales.

“What did you just say? Chai tea? ‘Chai’ means tea, Bro! You’re saying ‘tea tea!’ Would I ask you for a ‘coffee coffee’ and ‘cream cream?’” passionately responds the newly introduced Pavitr Prabhakar, voiced by Karan Soni.

The newest installment to the Spider-Man saga, Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse, hit theaters recently on June 2, 2023.

While all Marvel superfans were elated for the newest installment to Mile Morales’s story, Indian fans were especially thrilled when the movie introduced Pavitr Prabhakar, Earth 50101’s Spider-Man.

In the bustling city known as Mumbattan, Pavitr is the charismatic and confident local Spider-Man who enjoys hanging out with his girlfriend Gayatri, feeding stray dogs, and, of course, fighting crime.

Introduced to us with exhilarating Indian music, Mumbattan is an amazing animated parallel of the buzzing city of Mumbai.  The vibrant colors, familiar architecture, and traffic everywhere is incredibly reminiscent of the energetic city many of us know and love.

While we don’t get much of Pavitr in this installment, we learn of his exceptional skill as well as his naturally brawny build and hair that always looks good.  It’s incredibly refreshing to meet a Desi character that is not always studying or acting goofily in front of others.  Pavitr’s attractive qualities move away from the stereotypically awkward and scrawny Indian American characters that many of us were forced to grow up with.

Pavitr also vocalizes the frustration of many Desis in the film.  In addition to yelling at Miles for saying “chai tea,” he calls the movie’s villain out for saying “naan bread,” exclaiming that it’s the same thing as “chai tea” and “coffee coffee.” While he introduces Mumbattan, he points to a building and says, “that’s where the British stole all our stuff from,” referencing the increase in anti-colonial sentiment in recent times.

With the introduction of Kumail Nanjiani’s Kingo in The Eternals and Ms. Marvel, a series depicting the Pakistani-American main character Kamala Khan, Pavitr’s inclusion in Marvel’s newest release signifies an integral step forward for South Asian Americans in the superhero universe.

Growing up an Indian American in school, I was never able to identify with any Marvel heroes, no matter how much I yearned to be a part of their universe. Not so much the case now for children of Indian descent with movies like Across the Spider-Verse.  .



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