Manifest Star Parveen Kaur On Stereotypical Roles And Representation

Parveen Kaur
Aired in 2018, Manifest is an American supernatural drama that has been taking Netflix India by storm as of July 2022. One of the most notable characters in the show is that of Canadian actor Parveen Kaur who plays Saanvi Bahl, a sci-fi character in the salad bowl of drama, horror and crime.

For Parveen, as for the audience, Saanvi is a fierce and passionate individual rebuilding her life. Ambitious in her work, she helps develop a cure for Leukemia while simultaneously helping others on the airplane figure out what happened to them. Though Saanvi’s character is undoubtedly empowered, in an exclusive interview with Her Campus Kaur stated that she had mixed feelings about playing the role of a medical professional once again after her character in Saving Hope.

Kaur details how it was important for her, to accept stereotypical parts at the start of her career. “It’s all a learning experience, and best you can do is to try and bring as much humanity and conviction to the role and enjoy the character”, Kaur stated. Characters like these can act as avenues that broaden people’s perspective of South Asian men and women as doctors, scientists and general nerds.

For Kaur, questions of diversity and equal representation should be directed toward the decision-makers and not people of color. Kaur adds,  “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 show my upbringing that might be different from the writers’ room and may not always be accurate.”

Dr Saanvi Bahl was not presented as a stock character. Which is why, even when Kaur had decided that she would never play a doctor again, she accepted because of a nuanced and complex portrayal of Saanvi’s character. Nonetheless, Kaur ended her response by stating that even though her feelings are mostly positive she would still be “ready to move on from that after we finish the show.”

Suggested Reading: Who Is Iman Vellani? Pakistani-Canadian Actor Marvel’s First Muslim Superhero

Kaur also had some insightful advice for young women. She emphasised the need for a good work ethic which might mean giving up on a thriving social life. Having a ton of talent stands arbitrary against a lack of a drive to carry it through and showcase it. She adds to her advice by encouraging young women to ask for what they want. While acknowledging that this is not an easy thing to navigate through, Kaur reiterates that every time she has done it and gotten past the awkwardness, it was worth it.

Kaur was awarded the 2017 MISAFF star for her work towards creating a space for positive representations of diverse women in film and television.