An Indian superheroine on an ecological mission – The New Indian Express
Express press service
Superheroes have been such an integral part of most childhood memories that existing characters in the Marvel or DC Universe, to a number of people, are nothing short of idols. However, the male to female ratio – in the comics – is skewed given that there are noticeably more male characters with superpowers.
The few female superheroes are (deliberately) hyper-sexualized. Going beyond the strength of Superman or the magical lasso of Wonder Woman, New York filmmaker Ram Devineni introduced Priya, one of India’s first superheroines, through his comic book series Priya’s Shakti in 2014. Protagonist Priya, an ordinary girl from a remote Indian village, is a gang rape survivor, a character influenced by the 2012 Delhi gang rape. “Gender-based violence is a cultural issue. There is also a lack of societal support for survivors. So I created this female comic character that can reach young audiences and change people’s perception of female survivors,” he shares.
Devineni, who commuted frequently between NYC and Hauz Khas before COVID-19, discusses Priya’s visual representation: “Her outfit was intentional [she wears a purple kurta] so that people can visualize themselves in it. It’s a counterpoint to over-sexualized superhero outfits, ”he shares.
The Modern Day Messiah
Since her introduction to comic book culture in 2014, Priya and Sahas – a flying tiger and her sidekick – tackle social issues stemming from gender bias – Priya’s Mirror (2016) focuses on acid attacks ; Priya and the Lost Girls (2019) delves into the significant problem of sex trafficking.
The latest addition to the series, Priya and the Twirling Wind, was released in April this year. Co-written by Gurugram-based visual artist Shubhra Prakash [who also wrote the fourth book, Priya’s Mask], this story examines how urbanization affects the environment. “Every year, pollution damages the health of children. It was important for Priya and Sahas to address this from their experiences,” shares Devineni. Speaking of characters, Prakash shares, “It was important to have dynamic characters that stand out. This is the idea behind creating villains with their comical behavior.
Create Conscious Change
The 18-page comic tells the story of Priya who saves her magical forest from greedy industrialists threatening to cut down trees in the area, with the help of Soumya, a young girl with asthma. The storyline will remind the reader of the Chipko movement of the 1970s, one of the first non-violent environmental protests led by women who deterred loggers in the rural Himalayan region of Uttarakhand by hugging trees in an effort to conserve forests. .
To make Priya’s stories more engaging and interactive, these comics are augmented reality enabled, allowing the reader to see the characters come to life on screen. “Priya and the Twirling Wind” also features an animated film with puppets created by UK-based puppeteer Raven Kaliana. “Puppets have historically represented ‘the voice of the people’. The accessibility of the puppets means the storytelling can come from the people,” shares Kaliana. Comparing movies and comics, Devineni concludes, “I believe that comics and animated movies can both entertain us and allow us to think deeply about the world.”