'Manifest' star Parveen Kaur emphasizes the need to break away from stereotypes and the strength women have in the entertainment industry
Parveen Kaur is one of the many actors who have represented their nationality in the show, yet somehow the characters she plays have not been able to get out of stereotypical roles
Creator Jeff Rake's 'Manifest' is a show of multiple dimensions, but more than that it is a show that has a diverse cast representing a cross-section of society. However, in spite of its stretched out canvas to give every character a storyline, the show arc continues to be subjective in its approach - in the sense that it chiefly revolves around the Stone family while the rest of the character stories are said in context to the events taking place within the Stone family.
Parveen Kaur who plays the role of the diligent and bold Saanvi Bahl, a medical scholar studying to find a cure for cancer, recently opened up about the diversity on the show. Speaking with Xandie Kuenning from HerCampus, the actress confessed that she is trying hard to move away from the stereotypical roles that often see South Asians as the typical nerds in the group.
As she had already played the role of a doctor in the Canadian drama series 'Saving Hope', she finds it a little dull to once again play a similar role in 'Manifest'. "I hope that after doing a show like 'Manifest' as a South Asian, future roles would break out of that stereotype."
However, probably the one thing that keeps Saanvi from being just another Indian in a show dominated by a white cast is that she is just as ferocious as the lead Michaela, who is played by Melissa Roxburgh in the show. Both women have the tendency of dealing with things head on and won't give up till they have found the answers to their questions. That was one thing that drew Kaur to take up the role. She stated, "She is such a badass in the sense that she is very ferocious, fierce, dedicated and passionate. She is one of the main characters who is really handling this unfathomable, awful situation with a lot of strength — and she is really grounded in that as well."
In fact, until the fourth episode in the show, Saanvi seemed to be the only one who, instead of chasing her instincts, puts her head down in work. She was the first one who discovered that every passenger had a mark on their head that could be a potential symptom for schizophrenia.
She is also the one character who is seeing things on the inside and coming up with some logical reasons to uncover the mystery behind Montego Air flight 828. Kaur mentioned, "All the different characters are handling it in a different way, but Saanvi is really focusing on the work and figuring out what happened. She has a lot of attitudes and you can see that throughout the season."
Kaur is not different from her character, Saanvi, in the sense that both fight for the things that they believe in. Being awarded the 2017 MISAFF Star for her work towards creating space for positive representations of diverse women in film and television, Kaur believes that it is the duty of the heads of studios to take care of the fact that everyone is equally represented on screen.
"These questions need to be catered to them as they are the ones who need an answer and need to know what true diversity is. All I can really do is try to play these characters I am offered, which is very limited. Being a South Asian woman, it’s not like I have a plethora of characters. I can take this experience of working on 'Manifest' and make my own projects that are personal to me and show my upbringing. This might be different from the ideas in the writers' room that may not always be accurate."
Just like Curtiss Cook's character Radd in 'Manifest', Kaur's Saanvi holds a very significant position in the plot. However, unlike Cook's Radd who has been presented in the stereotypical way of being a Jamaican without a VISA in Trump's USA, Kaur's Saanvi breaks the stereotype by acting as a catalyst in the show. Yet, there are a lot of things that have been kept typical for her and we can only hope that actors like Kaur will get their due roles and place in other shows and movies. As an Indian woman in Hollywood, the one thing that Kaur diligently follows is keeping a good work ethic.
The actor believes that if people can really dedicate themselves to work, then there is nothing that they cannot achieve - even if they are part of the minority group.
As an advice to young women who are trying to make a living for themselves today, Kaur said, "The sooner we can learn to ask for things we want, the more fulfilling careers and social lives we will have. I'm just starting to learn that and I'm turning 30 this year. It feels really good. It’s always terrifying, but I've yet to have an experience where I asked and failed to feel good afterward."