‘Mira, Royal Detective’ Shows That Indian Culture Isn’t a Monolith

By Shagorika Ghosh Perkins Mar 27, 2020

“Mira, Royal Detective” recently premiered at the Walt Disney Studios with a ‘blue carpet event’ that witnessed the diverse South Asian cast and crew—from actors Freida Pinto and Leela Ladnier to music and dance creative team members, Amritha Vaz and Nakul Dev Mahajan—amid much pomp and fanfare. 

The preschool series, a celebration of Indian and South Asian culture, is viewed through the amazing stories of Mira and her friends. Serving as the cultural consultant and producer on the series has been an honor and a privilege, and I could not be more excited about its launch. 

Born and raised in India, I had a rather unique childhood. My family moved frequently between smaller, little-known townships to large, metropolitan cities as my father’s military career progressed. Moving every few years meant always making new friends, learning words in different languages, celebrating regional festivals, enjoying local cuisines and appreciating people from different backgrounds as unique representations of Indian culture. In India, where there are 22 official languages, distinct races and multiple religions, the country feels almost like its own continent. I was fortunate enough to experience growing up in this “multicultural” society long before I heard the term or knew of its significance.

Growing up, holidays were all celebrated with equal fervor at home, or with family and friends who were Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims and Christians. We joined the iftar dinner and feasted with friends during Eid, went out caroling during Christmas and celebrated Diwali and Durga Puja with new clothes and food.  We sought blessings and ate langar (community food) at Gurudwaras and celebrated Teej and Onam depending on where we lived at the time. Food is an awesome experience in India—each state has its own cuisine, its own spice blend and very unique flavors. I was privileged to have relished dishes from so many different regions, which ranged from mildly sweet to screamingly spicy.

Fast forward to the United States where I’ve lived and worked for almost two decades, leading multicultural marketing and advertising campaigns for blue-chip companies, which further honed my insights into the growing Asian and South Asian communities in the U.S. Now, I’m adding my voice to Disney Junior’s "Mira, Royal Detective" as a consulting producer.  Sometimes, it still feels like a dream—the reality of which I never experienced as a child—as the only cartoons I recall growing up with were “Tom and Jerry” or “Mickey Mouse”; now I’m ecstatic that my daughter’s generation will have a character and role model to identify with and look up to.

As parents of an 8-year-old biracial child, my husband, who is Caucasian, and I have faced the dilemma of inculcating the values and unique cultural experiences of her Indian background while living here in the U.S.—a balancing act that other South Asian parents have shared with me. Our struggles revolve around teaching her to speak Hindi or Bengali (my mother tongue) because they’re not languages we speak at home. However, we do take her to celebrate Indian festivals and join in cultural events whenever possible, and annual trips to visit grandparents in New Delhi is always a highlight.

"Mira, Royal Detective" couldn’t have come at a better time. Set in the backdrop of a small, fictional town called Jalpur, Mira, a caring, intelligent and resourceful girl rises to become the youngest and first female Royal Detective in the court of Queen Shanti. She, along with Prince Neel, cousin Priya and her two favorite furry mongoose helpers, Mikku and Chikku, take us on amazing adventures, solving mysteries while helping her friends, her community and the Queen.

The characters, Mira (Ladnier), Queen Shanti (Pinto), Aunty Pushpa (Jameela Jamil), and Sahil (Aasif Mandvi), among others, are in many ways reminiscent of people I’ve known growing up. Even the two bandits, Manish and Poonam (Parvesh Cheena and Sonal Shah), troublemakers who make an appearance every now and then, are ultimately loveable characters.

We see Mira come to Prince Neel’s rescue by solving the case of the missing oil for Diwali, a Hindu festival that symbolizes the victory of good over evil. In another episode, we witness the Jalpur kids lose their water balloons and suddenly we’re swept into the vibrant colors of Holi—another Indian festival where people celebrate with songs, dance and colored powder, and splash each other with water to ring in the joy of spring. Each episode is replete with its own hummable tune and there’s a medley of folk and classical Indian dances performed to instruments like the dhol, sitar and tabla.

One of my happiest moments was when my daughter Avani excitedly and joyfully announced: “Mommy, I want to be Mira! She has so much fun helping others and celebrates her Indian culture!” This encapsulates the series so well, and I love that "Mira, Royal Detective," not only will allow South Asian children see themselves on television, but those new to this culture will also be exposed to it in a fun and accessible way.

A series like "Mira, Royal Detective," makes a crucial point: In a world that is constantly changing, we owe it to ourselves and our children to take pride in our unique backgrounds and cultures, while integrating into newer ones. Bringing these experiences and stories to a new generation of children will enrich their lives, help to bridge the geographical divide and hopefully activate viewers’ imaginations, stimulate curiosity, and empower young minds to build trust, respect and friendships.

New episodes of “Mira, Royal Detective” air on Fridays at 11 am ET/PT on Disney Channel, with encores on Disney Junior and the DisneyNOW app.

Shagorika Ghosh Perkins is the cultural consultant and a consulting producer on Disney Junior’s animated series "Mira, Royal Detective.” She also served as a consultant on the Academy Award-nominated short, "Sanjay’s Super Team."