Ram Devineni, co-creator of the Priya series says readers can relate to the characters
Dressed like a mythological character, she flies on a ferocious tiger to fight against social evils. Priya, the rape-survivor-turned-super-heroine, will fight against female sex trafficking. Ram Devineni, co-creater of the series, spoke to DNA.
We can present difficult topics in an approachable and empathetic way through comic books. Such is its power. Readers relate to characters, especially to Priya, and understand the complexity of these problems without being repulsed. Nearly half of our population is under 25 years old; and they being our main audience we believe they will be receptive to the message. Priya is someone who doesn’t have magical powers but will fight social evil.
I was in Delhi when the Nirbhaya gang rape happened in 2012. Like many people, I was horrified and angered by the government’s indifference. There was an enormous outcry from young adults both women and men. The problem with sexual violence is not its legal aspect. It is a cultural problem. I travelled across India for about a year speaking to rape survivors, realising how difficult it was for them to seek justice. At the same time I also began to research upon Hindu mythology reading stories that involved humans and gods. That’s when I formulated a new tale where a mortal woman and a rape survivor would seek help from the Goddess Parvati after having no one else to turn to. I wanted to create a superheroine who would motivate people to change through the power of persuasion.
I think that is too much of a generalisation. There clearly are parts more patriarchal and unsafe for women than others. However, we want to emphasise through the comic book that change is possible. A cultural shift is incredibly difficult, but not improbable. India is going through some monumental changes and people’s views have not caught up with the speedy change. We needed a superheroine and there came Priya.
Priya, co-created by Indo-American filmmaker Ram Devineni, film-maker Paromita Vohra and artiste Dan Goldman is the protagonist of a five-book series which are an assemblage of mythological tales and modern day social evils.
In Priya Shakti, the first of the five released in 2014, she was gang-raped and shamed by society. After seeking blessing from Goddess Parvati, she regains her shakti to fight against social evils.
In the sequel, Priya’s Mirror, she holds up a mirror to acid-attack survivors to convince them that they don’t need to hide their scars.
The next book, Priya and the Last Girls, is about sex trafficking—another prominent and heinous crime against women.