Tuesday, November 26, 2019

India's Comic Book Hero

In December 2014, a new champion emerged to save the day – when she made her debut in a new graphic novel. 

Nah, she’s not from the Marvel or DC universes and neither is she an anime hero. 

In fact, The New York Times labelled it as the “first Indian comic book of its kind”. It is very much an understated description really because it didn’t give the whole picture. 

It is actually a first-of-its-kind fusion of comic book, augmented reality and social engagement. 

It is a story of Priya, a modern-day superhero who shatters taboos that exist in India, especially targeting violence against women. 

If you don’t know, ‘Priya’s Shakti’ was inspired by the Delhi bus gang rape of 2012 – and it tells of a mortal woman who as a rape survivor joins forces with the Goddess Parvati – and a tiger – to fight sexual violence. 

It wants readers to understand how challenging it is for women who survive sexual assault in India to come forward and seek justice without being further cruelly targeted for public shame by their communities. 

And the second volume, ‘Priya’s Mirror’ (2016), sees the heroine teaming up with acid attack survivors to take on the demon king Ahankar. As with its predecessor, the comic book makes use of augmented reality to bring the 2D world of the comic to vivid life and unlock interactive story elements. 

And the third instalment of the series launched today calls attention to sex-trafficking, a problem rampant across the country and also throughout the world. Titled ‘Priya and the Lost Girls’, brave Priya has a showdown with sex-trafficker Rahu, an evil demon who runs an underworld brothel city where he imprisons women, including Priya's sister Lakshmi. 

“Priya is not your typical superhero”, says filmmaker and co-creator Ram Devineni (left). “Although she rides a tiger, her main strength is her power of persuasion”. 

The idea behind the series is not only to showcase a black-and-white story of vanquishing evil, but also to create awareness about sensitive social issues that plague women to this day. Especially in India.

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