How ‘Ms. Marvel’ Put Partition on Screen

We spoke to the team behind the show’s episode on Partition — a historical event seminal to South Asians, yet rarely depicted in Hollywood.

Sadaf Ahsan

July 20, 2022

How ‘Ms. Marvel’ Put Partition on Screen
Mehwish Hayat as Aisha and Fawad Khan as Hasan in Season 1 Episode 5 of 'Ms. Marvel' (Disney)

The fifth episode of Ms. Marvel is unlike any other in the series, let alone the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It begins with the nostalgic song “Tu Mera Chand” from the film Dillagi (1949) — originally performed by Shyam and Suraiya, actors from Lahore and Rawalpindi, which would become part of Pakistan by the time of the film’s release — playing over the Marvel logo. The screen shifts to a 4:3 newsreel in black and white, with an announcer explaining that overnight, India gained “light and freedom” with its independence from Britain on August 15, 1947. Footage of speeches from Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of a free India, and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder and first governor-general of Pakistan, rolls as the announcer explains the division of the subcontinent into a secular India and a Muslim Pakistan, leading to one of the largest mass migrations in history.

“For underrepresented people in the West, there can be this inherent disconnect — a history can impact you, your family, your community directly, and yet be completely erased from the public space,” said Bisha K. Ali, Ms. Marvel’s creator and executive producer. “And none of the media you consume daily goes as far as even acknowledging its existence, let alone its impact.” That disconnect felt “visceral” for Ali, and many of the show’s writers, inspiring the decision to dedicate an entire episode to Partition and the events that displaced as many as 18 million people and killed anywhere between 200,000 and two million. 

Partition is rarely a subject in your average history class outside of South Asia or a topic for those in the South Asian diaspora who aren’t from a Partition family. And so “Time and Again” was an essential episode that the team behind Ms. Marvel — including episode director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, writer Fatimah Asghar, and Ali — were determined to tell.