Emara: The superhero who dons a headscarf

The caped crusader.
Updated 06 September 2018

Emara: The superhero who dons a headscarf

  • Emara is the superhero alter ego of a young Emirati girl called Moza
  • Fatma Almheiri would like to see more Arab and Muslim representation from Hollywood

DUBAI: Picture your average female superhero, and she is probably dressed in spandex with long bouncy hair and an illogically tiny waist. 

But Emara dons a navy blue headscarf, a green, white and gold costume, a cape lined with red, and golden specs inspired by the burqa. 

Born and raised in Dubai, Fatma Almheiri was just 21 when she created the mini-series on YouTube in 2016. She now aims to put Arab female superheroes on the map.

“I’ve been doodling since I can remember. I grew up watching my mum draw and paint, as well as my cousins, so it’s always been part of my life. But I didn’t decide to take drawing more seriously until high school,” recalled the Emirati.

It was then that she transformed her hobby into a career and enrolled at the Cartoon Network Animation Academy in Abu Dhabi. 

From there, she interned at the UAE’s Cartoon Network Studios Arabia before working fulltime on her personal project, the five-episode cartoon “Emara: Emirates Hero,” which boasts more than 75,000 subscribers.

“Emara is the superhero alter ego of a young Emirati girl called Moza, who harnesses a special power to fight crime in the bustling streets of the UAE,” said Almheiri.

Why create her own show with a strong female lead? “Representation,” she said. “I tried to create the kind of character I wanted growing up but never got.”

In comics and other areas of pop culture, said Almheiri, representation matters because fictional characters are a mirror to society. 

Like Latifa, Saudi Arabia’s first female comic superhero, and Pakistani-American Ms. Marvel, Almheiri said she wants Emara to give a sense of identity to children who, like her, could not relate to traditional superheroes. 

The reaction to her YouTube series has been “overwhelming,” Almheiri added. “I didn’t expect so much support, especially not internationally.”

She said: “The female main character is in a hijab. You don’t really see that often in cartoons… It’s the characters that make the show great.”

While Emara is currently discontinued unless it gets commissioned — “animation isn’t cheap and it takes a lot of time” — its creator has her sights set on the big screen.

“I’d like to create my own animated feature film one day,” said Almheiri. “I’d like to see more Arab and Muslim representation from Hollywood.” 

Film review: Bollywood legend Kajol disappoints as a mollycoddling mother

A still from 'Helicopter Eela.' (Image supplied)
Updated 16 October 2018

Film review: Bollywood legend Kajol disappoints as a mollycoddling mother

CHENNAI: Indian star Kajol cannot be faulted. Not easily, at least. Daughter of Tanuja, a fine performer from yesteryear, who did not make the mark largely because she failed to catch the eye of any important director, and niece of Nutan, who became a legend in her lifetime, Kajol has several feathers in her cap, such as “Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge,” “Kabhi Kushi Kabhie Gham” and “My Name is Khan.” But in her latest outing in Pradeep Sarkar’s “Helicopter Eela,” in which she plays a single mother, she disappoints. She is too loud, too shrill and too theatrical to pull off a character such as Eela. Maybe she had no idea what was expected of her, and one can perhaps hold the story (based on a Gujarati play) and the script responsible for Kajol’s slipshod acting.

Having lost her husband at a young age (this part is nonsensical) and struggling to bring up her son, Vivaan, Eela gets so possessive of him that she begins to smother him with her love. She even joins his college. There are hilarious moments in the classroom, and there are ego tussles between the mother and son, but some of them are carried to absurd levels. One minute Eela comes across as a cool and modern mom, but the next she meanders into moroseness, hovering like a helicopter (the movie’s title comes from this) over Vivaan.

Vivaan, played by Riddhi Sen, who won India’s National Award for his performance in the Bengali work “Nagarkirtan” earlier this year, is remarkable as a son caught between guilt and exasperation. While he liberally showers his affections on his mom, realizing the kind of sacrifice she has made, he also feels embarrassed and harassed by her unnecessary attention. And he tries to divert her energies away from him. If Sarkar’s idea was to highlight the need for women to discover their identity beyond the home, “Helicopter Eela” falters and fails to convince.