Spider-Man: Across the Spiderverse hit theatres on June 2, and the highly-anticipated sequel has already dazzled critics and fans alike. Beyond its stunning visuals, ludicrously fun soundtrack, and engaging story, the film also boasts a smorgasbord of spider-cameos. The film has an absolutely mind-boggling 250 cameos, including the highly anticipated Indian Spider-Man — Pavitr Prabhakar — voiced by Karan Soni.
Who is Pavitr Prabhakar?
Pavitr Prabhakar first made his debut in the 2004 limited series, Spider-Man: India. The four-issue run followed an alternate universe version of Peter Parker and a handful of classic characters with Indian twists. The whirlwind adventure drew heavily from its Mumbai backdrop, incorporating ancient magic, cultural zeitgeist, and playing off of classic Spider-Man villains and motifs.
Parallel to Peter Parker, Pavitr is an orphaned boy who is raised by his aunt Maya and his uncle Bihm. Just as intelligent as his American counterpart, Pavitr is gifted a scholarship to a prestigious Mumbai school, a move that extends the rural family’s tight budget to its breaking point. Bullied for being a country boy and for his family’s poverty, Pavitr struggles to fit in with everyone save for Meera Jain, an incredibly popular — and quite beautiful— girl from his school. Just like Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson, the pair quickly discover a spark between them.
One of the greatest changes to the story comes in the form of Spider-Man’s abilities. Pavitr gains his fantastic powers not through a spider bite, but from an ancient yogi. The wizened old man beseeches him to use his new spider powers to stop a flood of demons from overtaking the world — demons released by Nalin Oberoi — a local crime lord, and Norman Osborn’s counterpart. Just like Peter, Pavitr chooses not to help someone in distress after awakening his powers, and it’s his uncle Bihm who pays the price. As he dies, Bihm teaches Pavitr that, “With great power comes great responsibility.” And thus Spider-Man India was born.
The limited series follows the newly christened Spider-Man as he attempts to stop the demon invasion and deals with a magical version of Doctor Octopus — a mild-mannered doctor who is possessed by demons at Nalin Oberoi’s behest — and with the deranged crime lord himself. It also features a Venom-like demon that escapes capture at the end of the series, promising future iterations of the character.
Who is Karan Soni?
Karan Soni is an Indian American actor and comedian. You may not be familiar with his name, but you’ve certainly seen him before. The New Delhi-born actor moved to the U.S. at 18 to attend business school at the University of Southern California, but quickly discovered his love for acting. His first main-stream project was Safety Not Guaranteed, which saw him act alongside Aubrey Plaza and Jake Johnson. His most widely recognized part comes in his three-times reprised role as Dopinder, the hapless cab driver turned sidekick. He has lent his voice to several projects including Strange World, Big Mouth, and Trolls: World Tour. Soni is also a talented writer and worked on the 2021 project 7 Days with his boyfriend — writer and director Roshan Sethi.
Soni is an open Spider-Man enthusiast and is glad to see the emergence of yet another version of the beloved character. He told Filmfare that, “It’s just very exciting because I grew up in India, and we absolutely love Spider-Man.” He felt the pressure of taking on such an iconic role, and though he felt the support of his friends and family he also got a lot of serious messages telling him, “‘Don’t mess this up.’
With the film resting at a comfortable 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, there is no doubt that Soni and the incredible crew behind Spider-Man: Across the Spiderverse knocked this one out of the park.