November 30, 2023


Science Of Woman

In Dialog With Lifetime of Pi Actress Salma Qarnain

5 min read

Few individuals can name themselves a rocket scientist. Even fewer can say they’re a rocket scientist turned actress, producer, author and Broadway star. Salma Qarnain is a Pakistani-Muslim lady who can declare the title. 

Salma Qarnain
Salma Qarnain on the “Lifetime of Pi” Broadway Debut | Picture Credit score: Rebecca J Michelson

Artistry runs by means of Qarnain’s veins. Her grandfather was a filmmaker in Bombay and Karachi, earlier than passing away at a younger age. Her mom carried out in performs all through school. Now Qarnain is utilizing artistry to construct empathy, taking part in characters that symbolize her household’s story and selling Black and Brown allyship by means of
Black Man Films, the manufacturing firm she co-founded with Roderick Lawrence.

Qarnain grew up in Karachi, singing alongside to the Beatles and pretending to be Ringo Starr. When her household moved to the US, typical of South Asian immigrant parental affect, her curiosity in math and science and immense love for Star Wars led her to pursue aerospace engineering, therefore rocket science. Her mom’s passing compelled her to rethink her targets and when she wished to attain them.

[Read Related: Anya Banerjee: The New Face of NBC’s ‘The Blacklist’]

In the present day, she describes her goal for creating artwork in profound phrases. “I need individuals to be equal. I need individuals to grasp we’re very a lot all collectively a speck of mud in all the universe, and that there are such a lot of extra issues we share than we don’t.” 

Beginning leisure work within the aftermath of 9/11 made it clear how she, a Pakistani-Muslim lady, could be seen. “I bear in mind [at] that point… Buddies of mine advised me, ‘Don’t let anyone know x, y, z about you, as a result of they could have a bias towards you. One thing may occur.’”

The start of her profession was outlined by how Western tradition perceived Muslims and South Asians. Her first leisure gig was as a casting assistant in Washington D.C. She seen if South Asians have been solid, “they have been going to be taking part in one thing stereotypical to what a South Asian individual is considered… that could possibly be the geeky, primarily male, math nerd, or a terrorist.” 

Whereas the place supplied a possibility to find out about what it took to change into an actress, Qarnain additionally leveraged her obligations to make a change – if a job didn’t completely require a White actress, she gathered numerous resumes for the casting director, slowly shifting the concept of what an individual of coloration on tv needed to be. 

With individuals of numerous experiences becoming a member of author’s rooms and a “pipeline of younger South Asian actors,” the trade has improved however isn’t near equitable. She sees her Lifetime of Pi on Broadway and Black Man Movies as methods to fight that.

Broadway’s adaptation of Yann Martel’s 2001 novel brings a multigenerational South Asian solid to the stage and has Qarnain taking part in two roles – Pi’s (gender-swapped) biology instructor, an analytical, guiding mentor and the Muslim cleric Pi research underneath. Lifetime of Pi is one in all Qarnain’s favourite novels as a narrative about religion, storytelling and the facility of each to offer hope. She took a callback for the position by way of Zoom in an Applebee’s parking zone. 

“I really feel very invested in each of those characters. simply as a result of they’re completely extensions of who I’m as an individual, and to have this be my Broadway debut – I couldn’t have requested for something higher.”

She received to play a Pakistani-Muslim character as soon as earlier than within the off-Broadway play “Acquittal.” It was the primary time she may symbolize an genuine story. In “Life of Pi,” Qarnain helped workshop the scenes with the solid and Director Lolita Chakrabarti to make them extra genuine. 

Salma Qarnain
Salma Qarnain on the “Lifetime of Pi” Premiere | Picture Credit score: Rebecca J Michelson

“She completely took our solutions and feedback and reactions, for myself, from one other individual in our solid – who’s additionally a Muslim – after which from castmates [who are] Catholic and Hindu.. to grasp what would work and what would individuals reply to,” Qarnain stated. “That’s the place the present was, that [Chakrabarti] was very receptive to what we needed to say.” 

Black Man Movies and her partnership with Roderick Lawrence run parallel to her theatrical journey. The pair shaped the manufacturing firm through the pandemic by means of a brief movie that Lawrence created to discover Black males’s psychological well being. As an enthusiastic fan of Lawrence’s work and having wished to start producing for movie and tv, Qarnain joined the challenge instantly. The brief movie, “Silent Partner,” went to 21 movie festivals and gained Finest Quick at a number of. 

“It was by no means achieved for accolades,” Qarnain stated, “it was achieved as a result of there was a goal and message to the story round Black males’s psychological well being advised by means of the lens of microaggressions within the office.”


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The second brief movie, “Speak Up, Brotha!” was launched in late March and can be performed at Oscar-qualifying movie festivals this summer season. 

For Qarnain, Black Man Movies is a platform for change and Black and Brown allyship. 

“I need individuals to take a look at our movies and perceive the place they’re, who they’re on this movie, in “Silent Companion.” In the event that they’re complicit in propagating systemic racism, and, if that’s the case, what are they gonna do about it? How can they begin? How can they discuss to their mother and father? How can they, you already know, interact with different South Asians and put a cease to colorism and any racism that exists towards the black neighborhood?”

Telling tales that replicate the experiences of individuals of coloration offers creatives the facility to construct programs that may enhance individuals’s lives.

“There’s a racial hierarchy that exists and if we need to break that, we now have to be part of constructing all the things, not only for us, however for everyone who isn’t White,” Qarnain stated.

She is assured that the tales she’s serving to carry to life will just do that and alter the world within the course of. From “Lifetime of Pi” to “Converse Up, Brotha!” the probabilities for encouraging justice and empathy are countless.

The submit In Dialog With Lifetime of Pi Actress Salma Qarnain appeared first on Brown Woman Journal.

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