Why South Asian Moms Are Praising Mira, Royal Detective

South Asian Moms Everywhere Excited for new Disney Junior animated series, Mira, Royal Detective

“I’ve never been on a show where everyone on the call sheet is South Asian. Usually, you’re the one South Asian person amongst a sea of other ethnicities.” That’s what actor Utkarsh Abudkar, who plays ‘Chikku’ on the newest series on Disney Junior, Mira Royal Detective, said when he was interviewed about his character on the show.

Well, South Asian moms who grew up watching Aladdin, or Cinderella are just as excited to finally see an all-South Asian cast in an animated series where the female lead, actually LEADS!

Growing up, it was impossible to find someone on regular TV that looked like me or my family,” says mother of two, Shefali Raja. “I am so glad my two little girls will have a Disney character they can relate to!

Like Raja, so many of us remember watching animated series and looking for faces and voices like our own—especially female ones. Mira, Royal Detective hasn’t even premiered yet and it’s already creating a buzz amongst parents everywhere. Many moms were excited to hear the news in 2018 when Disney Junior first announced production.

leela ladnier in Mira Royal Detective

Photo: Disney Junior

“I am filled with so much excitement. Growing up my role model was someone I could never relate to, Barbie,” says Nadia Malik, a mom of two living in Irvine, California. “I looked nothing like her, and our cultures were different. I could only fantasize about looking like the old school, blond hair, blue-eyed, unrealistic skinny Barbies that used to exist. A show like this not only exposes children to beautiful Indian culture, but also may contribute to the self-esteem of South Asian kids. I look forward to showing my 6-year-old daughter this show. I look forward to seeing my daughter’s face light up when she sees a character that looks like her and has a similar culture like hers.”


The series features a brave and empowered young girl, Mira in a leading role in an animated mystery-adventure series for preschoolers. Disney Junior says it’s inspired by the cultures and customs of India and set in backdrop of the fictional land of Jalpur. Rooted in India’s vibrant heritage, each episode of “Mira, Royal Detective” weaves the country’s culture and customs into the storytelling. Disney Junior and the Indo-American Arts Council hosted a special advance screening of upcoming animated series ” in New York City last week, ahead of its March 20 debut. Kal Penn (voice of Mikku the mongoose) and Leela Ladnier (voice of Mira) got a first look at their characters’ toys at the event.

Leela Ladnier

Leela Ladnier
The Mira doll and Mikku plush, from Just Play, debuted at Toy Fair in New York on Friday, February 21, and “Mira, Royal Detective” premieres Friday, March 20 on Disney Channel and Disney Junior

Kal Penn

Mira, is a commoner who is appointed to the role of royal detective by the Queen. The show follows her adventures with her friend Prince Neel, a talented inventor, creative cousin Priya, and comical mongoose sidekicks Mikku and Chikku.

Photo: Disney Junior

Each episode features two 11-minute stories spotlighting Mira as she utilizes critical thinking and deductive reasoning to help her family, friends and extended community. Whether it’s tracking down the culprit who stole the Queen’s crown or clearing the name of a falsely accused chicken, Mira believes that every case is important, no matter how big or small. She loves solving puzzles and has a gift for observation, which allows her to see situations from different perspectives.

For Yashy Murphy, as South Asian mom in a mixed marriage, how her own culture is conveyed in a kids series is an important part of the choices she makes when watching shows with her children.

My 8-year-old self is jumping with glee at the thought of a South Asian Disney character,” says Murphy.  “As a South Asian mom raising mixed kids, I am delighted to see Disney educating Canadian kids about the rich cultural heritage of South Asian customs and giving a chance for a strong brown female character to shine like a star.

Toronto mother of two, Mangala Rao-D’Sa says it’s concepts like that get her seal of approval. She says she’s looking forward to seeing the series’ characters breaking the traditional South Asian formula.

Really excited to see content being developed of South Asian characters that are complex, interesting, steeped with cultural heritage rather than feeding into the old Hollywood stereotype of bumbling convenience store owner of Apu.

The added all-South Asian cast of characters is what mother of two boys, Bella Suchak says has her vote.

“So excited that history is being made! Mira Royal detective has an amazing star cast that have come together through Disney to make a show that is breaking boundaries,” says Suchak.  “The stories and charters are based on South Asian names and places children can understand and familiarize themselves with.  Names such as Mira and Chikku will be sound familiar rather than strange and odd. I wish this show every bit of success! It would be nice for Mira to be a household name like other mainstream cartoons.”

Indian culture, music and dance play an integral role in “Mira, Royal Detective.” Each episode features at least one original song and Mira’s signature recurring song, “We’re on the Case.” Both the songs and the underscore pair a variety of South Asian musical styles, including Bollywood, pop, classical, folk, fusion and more, with a classic Disney feel that creators hope will resonate with viewers of all ages around the world. The dance numbers also showcase the diversity of the culture, highlighting both northern and southern Indian styles, as well as big Bollywood routines.

 

I think it’s a brilliant concept not just for South Asian kids but also kids from other cultures to watch this show as today the world has become small and such a show exposes kids to a different culture,” says Pittsburgh mom of two girls, Anchal Malik Chopra. “This increases their cultural competency for one and of course seeing Mira in a lead role might give young girls a character in which they might be able to see themselves.

Starring as the voice of Mira is Leela Ladnier. Freida Pinto voices the role of Queen Shanti; Hannah Simone is a young commoner named Pinky; Jameela Jamil is Mira’s Auntie Pushpa; Kal Penn and Utkarsh Ambudkar are mongooses Mikku and Chikku, respectively; and Aasif Mandvi is Mira’s father, Sahil. Rounding out the cast is Aparna Nancherla as Mira’s cousin Meena, Roshni Edwards as Mira’s cousin Priya, Kamran Lucas as Prince Neel, Karan Brar as Prince Veer, Karan Soni as Manjeet, Maulik Pancholy as Ranjeet, Sarita Choudhury as Great-Aunt Rupa, Sarayu Blue as the palace tailor and Parvesh Cheena and Sonal Shah as bandits, Manish and Poonam, respectively. Acclaimed Bollywood choreographer Nakul Dev Mahajan (“So You Think You Can Dance”) serves as the dance consultant and choreographer for the series.

Emmy Award nominees Matthew Tishler (“High School Musical: The Musical: The Series”) and Jeannie Lurie (“The Muppets”) write and produce the original songs, and Amritha Vaz (“Miss India America”) serves as composer. The series is produced by Wild Canary in association with Disney Junior, with animation provided by Technicolor India.

Leela Ladnier

MIRA, ROYAL DETECTIVE – Disney Junior and the Indo-American Arts Council hosted a special advance screening of upcoming animated series “Mira, Royal Detective” at the CinŽpolis Chelsea Theater in New York City on Saturday, February 22. Cast members including Kal Penn, Leela Ladnier, Aasif Mandvi and Aparna Nancherla were in attendance. Debuting March 20, 2020, the series is set in the magical Indian-inspired land of Jalpur and follows the brave and resourceful Mira, a young girl who is appointed to the role of royal detective by the Queen. (Disney Junior/Heidi Gutman)
JOE D’AMBROSIA (SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, ORIGINAL PROGRAMMING AND GENERAL MANAGER, DISNEY JUNIOR), KAL PENN, LEELA LADNIER, AASIF MANDVI, APARNA NANCHERLA, RAKESH KAUL (VICE CHAIRMAN INDO-AMERICAN ARTS COUNCIL)

Mother of three, Mamta Arya whose youngest is a girl, is looking forward to watching the show with her daughter. Arya, born in India moved to UK then Canada after she married. Now as a mother of three, culture and identity are an important part of her family values.

I think it’s great that finally a minority is showcased, and people recognize that the South Asian community is an established part of our country,” says Arya. “I am also happy to see a female lead in such a strong role as it’s important that our kids see that and step out of the gender cliché that are set in many minds. I’m thrilled that my daughter will have an opportunity to watch a show that teaches them to strive for a world that can have no bias for gender, race and religion. Creating such shows is a great way to teach other people about our strong heritage and values.

The show hasn’t even had its first episode and excitement has already gotten Disney Junior’s attention. The network has ordered a second season of Mira, Royal Detective ahead of its spring 2020 debut. Mira, Royal Detective is set to premiere on the Disney Channel and Disney Junior in the United States on March 20 starting at 11 a.m. EDT/PDT on the Disney Channel and 7 p.m. EDT/PDT on Disney Junior.  In conjunction with the series premiere on Friday, March 20, Walt Disney Records will release a digital soundtrack with 20 songs from the series, and the DisneyNOW app will debut a hidden object game in which players are invited to help Mira solve mysteries by following a trail of clues in an immersive 3D environment. Additional extensions for the series will continue to roll out later this year.


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