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This documentary filmmaker created India’s first female superhero!7 min read

January 22, 2021 5 min read


This documentary filmmaker created India’s first female superhero!7 min read

Reading Time: 5 minutes

She is bold!
She is fierce!
She rides a tiger!

Meet Priya, India’s first female superhero!

Priya from the Priya’s Shakti series was born after a nation-stirring act of injustice against a woman in Delhi. Since then, the comic has stood for gender equality, and the need to talk about issues surrounding gender disparity.
Priya, a survivor of gender-based violence herself, symbolises strength and power as she traverses one adventure after the other, against the common enemy of inequality.

The series has caused such a stir with its mission that the creators of Priya’s Shakti have recently been honoured by UN Women as Gender Equality Champions.

The most recent comic in the series, Priya’s Mask, takes the readers through Priya’s experience of COVID-19 and how she battles misinformation, and the evil villain of Chutneyville, Baba Kaboom, with help from her superhero friend from Pakistan, the Burka Avenger!
Psst… you will get to meet Priya soon as part of our escape room. Have you signed up, yet?

A still from the comic, Priya’s Mask

Owliver met with the brilliant creator of Priya’s Shakti, Ram Devineni, to know more about the idea of Priya’s Mask, superhero Priya, and her furry companion— the tiger, Sahas.

How did the characters Priya and Sahas come about?

Delhi had seen one of the most extreme forms of gender violence in 2012. Ram was part of the protests against this act. The character of Priya, the first Indian female superhero, was born out of this experience. Ram wanted to change the perception people have about the role of women in society and Priya became an ambassador for that thought through the comic. Ram said, “Her name also translates to “love” or “beloved” which was very important because her mission is out of love and not anger.” He added, “Sahas means courage and is Priya’s friend and inner strength.” 

Why did he choose the medium of the comic book to talk about grave social issues like gender inequality?

As a child, Ram, like millions of children even today, was an avid reader of the Amar Chitra Kathas! In fact, this is where he first learned about Hindu mythology (a recurring motif in the series). He says, “Comic books characters like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman have become modern mythological icons, and other comic book stories such as Art Spiegelman’s “Maus” address important historical events. We (at Priya’s Shakti) are using existing constructs that are familiar to everyone in India, but presenting them in a fresh and original way.”

What is the principle that guides all of the comics in Priya’s Shakti series?

“Overcoming fear!”, says Ram.
And this is all the more important in light of the infections hitting the world, today. Ram adds, “There is a lot of misinformation being shared online and through mobile devices about the COVID-19, and this comic book dispels those lies. Those lies were spread resulting from fear and sometimes fear is more dangerous than the virus. Our superhero, Priya, fights fear and the virus.”

How did Priya’s Mask come into being?

Priya in a mask, and Sahas

The team for Priya’s Mask worked tirelessly across countries (India and the USA) to bring the comic to life. Ram says, “We worked close using Zoom, and never physically met during the entire creation process.”

Priya returns in “Priya’s Mask” as a fierce and strong teenager. The new edition is for a younger audience and will dispel misinformation about COVID-19. Ram adds, “Priya’s message has always been about conquering your fears in order to find strength. Priya shows us why it is important to work together to defeat the virus, and follow basic safety practices like “wearing a mask for your safety and mine.” The comic also focuses on the emotions children have gone through during the onslaught of the Pandemic through the character of Meena.

Priya with Meena

Tell us more about the collboration with the Pakistani superhero, Burka Avenger, for Priya’s Mask.

Priya and Jiya

Burka Avenger is Pakistan’s female superhero, who goes by the name Jiya. So, the collaboration seems natural! Ram adds, “The virus does not respect borders and is a global problem. It can only be defeated through cooperation and understanding between people and cultures.” The comic brings forth the similarities in the struggle faced by both the characters.

What has been the most rewarding experience for the team at Priya’s Shakti?

Priya’s Shakti is a comic with a difference. It has characters inspired by real life heroes whose stories are woven in the narrative. Ram says, “I think telling the stories of survivors who have become advocates and heroes is the most rewarding part of the series.”

What can our readers expect in the near future from Priya’s Shakti?

Priya and Sahas’ mission is a long one with many more adventures. Apart from exploring more spaces of gender-based violence, there is also a possible storyline around climate change. The team will also be creating more short animated films like the one they have made for Priya’s Mask.

Owliver’s Play: Watch the video below and guess the actor who lent her voice to Sahas’ character!

And here’s Ram’s message for our young readers—

Priya is a force to reckon with! And there is much to learn from her about, as Ram said, overcoming fear and becoming a hero of our own lives.
By making sure that you do not practice any inequality based on gender and by calling out instances when you do, you can be Priya, too. Now, wear your cape and make the world a more equal place.
Isn’t that a wonderful way to start the year?

Priya’s Shakti is Owliver’s partner for the Virtual Escape Room event scheduled for January 31. Have you made your own team of superheroes, yet?
If not, get to it, and sign up here.

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