She rides on her flying tiger Sahas and is an emblem of courage. The gospel of love, fairness, and acceptance is what she seeks to preach. She is none other than Priya, India’s first female comic book superhero.
Something new and refreshing now emerges from this comic book series. An international array of actors featuring Vidya Balan, Mrunal Thakur, Sairah Kabir, and Rosanna Arquette have come on board together. They have lent their voices to an animated short film accompanying the fourth edition of this augmented-reality-enabled Priya Shakti series. Titled Priya’s Mask, it was a part of the December 2nd screenings at the Global Health Film Festival in London.
The beginning of the Priya’s Shakti series
Priya is a brainchild of Ram Devineni, a New York based filmmaker and technologist. The heartbreaking incident of the gang rape in a bus in New Delhi shook the nation in 2012. In the wake of this heinous crime was born the desire to create the Priya’s Shakti series to draw attention to problems engulfing women in society.
Handling diverse themes
In its six-year journey since 2014, the series has addressed very pertinent societal issues. The first edition, titled Priya’s Shakti, throws light on a sad reality when Priya, who is brutally raped, is ostracized and faces loneliness. A mythological angle is added, bringing in Goddess Parvati who is angered by the sexual violence and injustice meted out to women on Earth and decides to change the disturbing state of affairs.
Another thoughtful story is woven in Priya’s Mirror with the protagonist joining a group of acid-attack survivors. The third edition, Priya and the Lost Girls, chooses sex trafficking as its subject.
Indian superhero Priya now comes with a mask
Priya takes a whole new route in the newest addition. It’s a topic universally talked about. Yes, it’s COVID-19 and the importance of wearing masks. Titled “Priya’s Mask”, the comic series concentrates on the most important need of the hour. When the world is caught up in the grip of a threatening pandemic, it is extremely important to educate little children and teenagers about the seriousness of the matter. What can be a better way to do this than by presenting the problem through a comic book and an animated film that both entertain and educate our young citizens?
Priya is on a mission to combat the invisible monster that is shaking the world. She strikes a friendship with a little girl Meena and tells her about the sacrifices made by the frontline healthcare workers. With support from Sahas, she stresses how love and compassion have a healing touch and how wearing masks stops the spread of the virus. What is phenomenal is that Priya has an able companion in Pakistan’s female superhero Burka Avenger, who joins her in the crusade.
A path-breaking initiative
Comic books were an integral part of my childhood days. With great anticipation, I would wait for the release of an Amar Chitra Katha. The series was essentially the baseline from which I gathered knowledge about the religious epics, historical figures, folktales, and the cultural mosaic of India. On similar lines, Priya’s Shakti is path-breaking in its noble endeavor to raise awareness in regards to women’s issues and spread the message of gender equality and women empowerment.
The goal of the comic series is to liberate the mind from the shackles of patriarchy and generate respect towards women. Anyone who undergoes an unfortunate incident in life and comes out of it is not a victim. She should be hailed as a survivor.
Children need to be enlightened about the problems that plague women in our society. However, serious discussions or complicated literature may be intimidating. In that scenario, it’s a brilliant idea to throw light on these truths in the form of comic book stories in which readers can easily relate to the characters.
The creators of Priya’s Shakti were honored by UN Women as “Gender Equality Champions”. Priya the crusader is resilient; she is an icon of woman power whose voice rings loud to emphasize that women need to be given their rights and that the world needs to stand in solidarity against gender-based violence. Let’s continue in the same spirit and honor the values of hope, truth, and positivity that Priya endorses. May we all stand by these ideals and show her our support, as goes the hashtag of the comic series #StandWithPriya!
(This post was featured in Women’s Web )
Image source: priyashakti.com