4 November 2016 | Shruti Kohli | NEW DELHI
Comic legends Panchatantra and Hitopadesha served liberal helpings of a variety of moralities through generations. Moralities ranging from loyalty to commitment, in friendships, between men. No fable came close to talking about women. A wife or a mother got a passing reference. In that frame, talking about sexual violence seemed outright blasphemous.
So when this new comic superhero, Priya, barged into the landscape flashing a mirror at the world’s arrogance, the act was no less a breach. It interrupted a pattern. It was like a shard of broken expectations cutting through a shining mirage exposing the wrong side of delusion.
‘When we spoke about acid attacks openly past couple of years, people started thinking we were talking about a new problem,’ says Alok Dixit of Stop Acid Attacks in a conversation with The Petticoat Journal. ‘There was no literature on this subject. No one was talking about it. There were no heroes, no survivors. A more comprehensible form of literature like a comic being published on a severe but completely ignored violence like acid attacks, is big. For me, just the existence of these comic books is comforting’, Dixit says.
Considering the statistics – 83 acid attacks reported in 2011, 85 in 2012, 66 in 2013, 309 in 2014 and 349 acid attacks in the year 2015 – the smallest move in this direction is a giant step.
Yes. But when Ram Devineni conceptualised this modern piece of art, the plan was definitely to send out an unwavering message to a wide world that stood frozen inside a shapeless mould.
So two years after Priya’s Shakti was launched in December 2014, and a month after Priya’s Mirror walked the red carpet at the Film Society of Lincoln Centre during the New York Film Festival, has this pioneer literature managed to cause enough flutter on ground zero?
‘It has not the way it ideally should have. But it’s getting better. When Priya’s Shakti was launched I had no funding. It could be translated into Hindi six months after the launch. But Priya’s Mirror was translated into multiple languages before the launch because by now my project was well funded,’ Ram says.
The target audience marked for this project are teenagers. The use of advanced technologies llike augmented reality and image recognition, and making it available in various digital formats , has made it easier to attract this segment. ‘We are reaching out to schools.’ The Lions Club is in talks with about a dozen schools in Delhi to make the comics available to their students. ‘But, of course, we need to ensure a much wider reach.’
This is the most important aspect of the project if it’s not destined to end up as a mere showpiece in uppity drawing rooms. ‘The idea behind Priya’s Mirror is to establish hope for the future. It has not been created just for discussion’s sake,’ says Paromita Vohra as she agrees with Ram about expanding the audience.
Dan Goldman, the artist who drew the comics and, who, until the beginning of the Priya project in 2013, knew India only as much as that little neighbourhood restaurant in his hometown Miami, surprises you by sharing some very sharp observations and even sharper suggestions.
‘During my promotional trips with Ram, I felt we need more print copies if we are to set a good reach. In rural areas and many parts of urban areas, not too many people have smart phones,’ Dan contemplates with The Petticoat Journal.
It’s available in every format of digital reading. But that would not help much. Besides, the languages. Currently, the comic is available in Hindi and three European languages. That’s not enough. It needs to be translated into many more languages even if we are looking at only India as of now, Dan says.
Priya’s next stop is the land where women are sold for sex. It’s right next door to the populated neighbourhoods. But only Priya can spot it, only Priya can know it. Because it’s a basic human peculiarity to wait for superheroes for the nudge. So the world has waited, and waits, for Priya to lead it into a fight against the monstrous evils that have played on its flaws for long enough and overpowered its realities. She won’t be long.
photos: Priya’s Shakti
If you, or a woman or women around you, are subject to domestic violence, sexual harassment, sexual violence, and other atrocities at home or anywhere else, here is what you can do.Know more