The Potterverse’s treatment of people of color has been lacking, to say the least. Just last year, triple threat actor, writer and director Dylan Marron posted a YouTube video with every line spoken by a person of color in the Potter film series.
Spoiler alert: the video was pretty short.
It seems the minds behind Harry Potter and the Cursed Child took this to heart with the casting of Noma Dumezweni, an accomplished black actress, for the title role of Hermione Granger, and Cherrelle Skeete as Rose Granger-Weasley. Naturally, I was excited to read the special edition script book of Cursed Child, with these images in mind. From here forward, beware of spoilers.
While I have several issues with Cursed Child, none stand out more to me than the character Panju. The little ginger Indian boy (at least, that’s how he looks like in my imagination) practically has Act Two, Scene 17 dedicated to him and his “facial growths”.
Out of all the Indian names available at Rowling and Thorne’s fingertips, they decide to go with this one and it’s a damned shame. Can you imagine it — Panju Weasley? I highly doubt George Weasley, comedian extraordinaire, would have stood for it. I’ve considered the possibility of it being a nickname, but what would it have even been a nickname for? Panjesh? Panjay? These names might even be worse than the original.
— Aditya Ramani (@Aditya_Ramani) August 3, 2016
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— Shruti Ambast (@ShrutiAmbast) August 1, 2016
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time the Potterverse has done a disservice to the South Asian community.
As an Indian American woman, flipping through the pages of “Harry Potter” was somehow made even sweeter by seeing characters like Parvati and the infamous Panju’s mother, Padma Patil. At last, I could culturally identify with characters in the book.
In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, these two were given an even bigger role as Harry’s and Ron’s dates to the Yule Ball. Parvati wears robes of “shocking pink” while Padma wore bright turquoise. As the proverbial cherry on the top, J.K. Rowling mentions that Parvati is wearing gold bracelets — a very Indian tradition.
Naturally, I was curious to see what these outfits would look like come to life on the silver screen. Two words: oy vey.
Buzzfeed originally covered this, but the two were wearing matching lengha (top and ankle length skirt) outfits of muted orange and pink with the dupatta (scarf-like material) tied to their sides.
Now, if I was the date of the Chosen One, I highly doubt I would wear the first thing I found at the store. No, that’s a lie. It wouldn’t be the first thing I found because it would be difficult to find such a sad lengha outfit in a store. With such a rich South Asian population, I’m sure their parents could’ve literally owled them anything else.
That aside, Buzzfeed’s Rega Jha points out that, in their official Goblet of Fire portrait, each actress is wearing half of a bangle set. I’m having a hard time believing that the costume designers couldn’t spend the extra cash on a full set of bangles for each of the actresses.
This comes on an ever more bitter note once you compare the twins’ outfits to Cho Chang’s. She was given a beautiful embroidered piece with a Mandarin style collar. I get it — she was supposed to be Harry’s dream date so naturally her look was played up. That doesn’t mean the designers had to reach for scraps when creating Parvati and Padma’s outfits.
The South Asian population in England and Scotland has been on the rise for years. To have only three characters so poorly represented is not only a disservice; it’s an insult. To the Potterverse, I say: do better.