To call any one of the Shadow and Bone cast members a “breakout” is difficult, given that this young cast of relative newcomers is so freaking talented across the ensemble. That being said, Amita Suman, the Nepali-born British actress who plays Inej Ghafa, absolutely kills it in her performance as the knives-wielding assassin who believes in the Sun Summoner, her friends, and the sanctity of life. I’m not surprised, given that Suman has appeared on one of Den of Geek’s other favorite genre shows, Doctor Who, back in 2018, playing an integral role in one of NuWho’s best episodes ever: “Demons of the Punjab.”
Written by Vinay Patel and directed by Jamie Childs, “Demons of the Punjab” sees the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) and her companions Yaz (Mandip Gill), Ryan (Tosin Cole), and Graham (Bradley Walsh) traveling back to 1947 Punjab, in the hours leading up to the Partition of India, the violent division of British India into two states: India and Pakistan. The trip is instigated by Yaz, who has just received a watch from her grandmother Umbreen (Leena Dhingra), and wants to know the story of how it was broken. Once there, they meet a much younger Umbreen (played by Amita Suman!), and are pulled into her life and the political unrest of the historical moment. Also, there are aliens.
Den of Geek had the chance to ask Suman about her work on Doctor Who during a press junket for Shadow and Bone, and specifically if there is something about genre scripts that appeals to her as an actress.
“For me, when I’m reading a script or a character, it’s really about who they are,” says Suman. “And more importantly, the message that they’re trying to portray. And even more importantly, the story that they’re in. And I’ve been really fortunate where ‘Demons of the Punjab’ was telling a very needed story that people needed to know and showing history. And again, with Inej, I’ve just been very fortunate to have been handed all of this great parts because I never thought I’d get to be in a fantasy/sci-fi genre ever. And she is such a unique badass yet good character. And, again, she portrays so many messages that I look up to and I hope other people look up to, aside from the killing. This show celebrates so many things that we are fighting for right now. I’ve just been very fortunate and I’m so grateful for it. And I’m so happy you watched ‘Demons of the Punjab.’ That was one of the best experiences ever.”
If you’re not a Doctor Who fan, but enjoy Suman’s performance in Shadow and Bone and want to see more of her work, then I highly recommend “Demons of the Punjab.” While there are character elements of the episode you might not fully understand, for the most part, it works as a standalone episode. As a series, Doctor Who often has an adventure-of-the-week format that has its main characters traveling to new places and meeting new people every week. This makes it a very accessible show, especially in recent seasons led by Thirteenth Doctor Jodie Whittaker, which have more of a “monster-of-the-week” format than NuWho’s run under Russell T. Davies or Steven Moffat’s leadership as headwriter/showrunner.
What I’m saying is: “Demons of the Punjab” is worth a watch, especially as we all wait for Shadow and Bone Season 2.