Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Priya is Back

Remember Priya, India’s comic book hero? I had blogged about her – 4 posts altogether – in November last year. 

Tomorrow, a new comic that again features Priya is back! 

In Priya's Mask, the "modern-day feminist superhero" arrives riding the flying tigress Sahas (Hindi for courage), to battle "an invisible monster – a deadly virus unlike any we've seen before".

As she flies into the city, she sees masses fleeing on foot – a reminder of the early days of the lockdown in India when tens of thousands of poor migrant workers walked for days to return home while factories, offices and transport shut down.


 

"There's a quiet sense of fear. Everyone is hiding in their homes. It seems as though time has stopped", she observes. 

Meena, a little girl who's one of the main characters in the story and invited to hop on to Sahas' back for a tour of the becalmed city spots her favourite ice-cream parlour where no one is queuing up any more; she sees her friend who's as isolated as she is; and hears voices – at times irrational and fearful. At the hospital, she watches her mother, a nurse, heroically tending to Covid-19 patients.


 

"We wanted people to understand that these are extraordinary times. And we wanted to highlight the role of Covid heroes since we felt they were not being talked about much", Shubhra Prakash who wrote the script says. 

In the comic, Priya also partners with Jiya, the Burka Avenger, a popular character from a Pakistani cartoon show, as the two go about trying to tackle the pandemic – and also the "infodemic", a major proliferation in fake news surrounding the coronavirus. 

Another story arc is the fight to protect the city of Chutneyville against a villainous assault by Baba Kaboom, who plans to take it over by not wearing a mask and spreading the virus. But, in the process, he himself catches the coronavirus and needs help from Priya and Jiya. 

"The most important message it conveys is we have to look at the world with compassion and not give up on humanity. We can only conquer the virus if we work together", Prakash says. 

With more than 9.4 million infections and 137,000 deaths, India has the second highest caseload globally. A strict nationwide lockdown that was imposed on March 21 delayed the spread for a while, but infections grew rapidly – and continue to do so – since restrictions were relaxed. 

The comic, which targets young people and has augmented reality features, can be downloaded for free anywhere in the world.

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