With ‘We Are Lady Parts,’ Nida Manzoor Rocks On

When the writer-director Nida Manzoor began dreaming up Season 2 of “We Are Lady Parts,” the comedy about an all-female Muslim punk band, one of her earliest ideas was a song: “Malala Made Me Do It,” a neo-Western hype track celebrating the activist Malala Yousafzai. And then she had another idea: Maybe she could get Malala, whom she had met briefly at a talk, to star in the video.

She wrote Yousafzai a love letter. To Manzoor’s surprise, Yousafzai, who loves comedy, responded. And this is why, in the second episode of the new season of “We Are Lady Parts,” which premieres on Thursday on Peacock, Yousafzai appears on a horse, resplendent in a white cowboy hat, while the band irreverently sings her praises: “Nobel Prize at 17/the baddest bitch you’ve ever seen.”

Directing her idol brought on some fan-girl panic. “I was, like, totally not cool,” Manzoor said. “But it was joyful to work with her.”

Joy has been an animating force for Manzoor, 34, the assured and wildly original creator of “We Are Lady Parts” and “Polite Society,” a martial arts film about a teenage girl rebelling against her sister’s arranged marriage. In a moment where nearly everything onscreen feels like a reboot, a reprise, a retread, a spinoff, Manzoor’s works (an urban Muslim musical comedy, a surreal teenage eugenics-addled action caper) reliably feel like nothing else, each a microgenre unto itself.

“I like to just make the genre smaller and smaller and be the only one in there,” Manzoor said one morning in early May, speaking on a video call from her home in Bristol, England. She wore a blazing orange sweater over a bright green shirt and her affect was by turns giddy, introspective, confiding, resolute. Her work resists generalization — Manzoor resists it, too.

In Manzoor’s 2023 martial arts film “Polite Society,” a teenage girl rebels against her sister’s arranged marriage. Credit…Parisa Taghizadeh/Focus Features

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