Priya, India’s first female superhero, has been defending and empowering survivors of gender-based violence – sexual violence, acid attacks, and sex trafficking – since her comic book series debut in December 2014. Named a “Gender Equality Champion” by UN Women, Priya is a rape survivor who flies on her tiger, Sahas, helping other women and girls get justice. Her superpower is her ability to motivate people to change. In Priya’s Mask, the latest digital comic book and short animated film in the series, Priya takes on a new foe as she “embarks on a mission to stop the spread of Covid-19.”
Released last week, Priya’s Mask finds the title character befriending a little girl named Meena “to show her the sacrifices made by frontline healthcare workers and instill the power of courage and compassion during this difficult time. Along with her tiger Sahas, Priya explains the importance of wearing a mask and working together to help end the pandemic around the world. She teams up with Pakistan’s female superhero, BURKA AVENGER, to foil her arch enemy from infecting her city with the potent virus.” Free download of digital comic here.
The accompanying Priya’s Mask short animated film (click lead image above to watch) is described as “an important testament to the courage of women healthcare workers” that “will help educate people about the virus.” An international ensemble cast lend their voices to the film including Vidya Balan, Mrunal Thakur, Sairah Kabir and Rosanna Arquette.
Priya’s three previous storylines focused on “the threat of sexual harassment and violence that women face on a daily basis unless deeply rooted patriarchal norms are challenged.”
The series launched at the Mumbai Comic and Film Convention in December 2014 with Priya’s Shakti. It introduced a global audience to Priya, “a human woman and ardent devotee of the Goddess Parvati who has experienced a brutal rape and the social stigma and isolation resulting from it.” The initial storyline centered on the Goddess Parvati being “horrified to learn about the sexual violence that women on Earth face on a daily basis and is determined to change this disturbing reality. Inspired by the Goddess, Priya breaks her silence. She sings a message of women’s empowerment that enraptures thousands and moves them to take action against GBV around the world.” Priya’s Shakti was funded by the Tribeca Film Institute, the Ms. Foundation, and the Ford Foundation. It was a viral hit out of the gate with “over 500,000 digital downloads and over 30,000 printed copies distributed in schools, NGOs, festivals, and comic book conventions.” Free download of digital comic here.
The success of Priya’s Shakti led to Priya’s Mirror, the first comic book to be funded by the World Bank, which premiered with an augmented reality exhibition at Lincoln Center at the New York Film Festival in October 2016. In this second installment of the series, Priya returns wielding her power to defend survivors of acid attacks. The story was written in collaboration with real-life acid attacks survivors from New York City, Bogota, and New Delhi who became characters in the comic book. Along with the comic, the creators released an augmented reality app that lets you view the stories of these courageous women speaking in their own voices. Free download of digital comic here.
The third installment of the series, Priya and the Lost Girls, is “based on the life of Ruchira Gupta and her journey from making the documentary The Selling of Innocents to building Apne Aap Women Worldwide, an NGO that works to end sex trafficking.” The story opens with Priya returning home to discover that all the young women have disappeared in her rural village including her sister, Laxmi. “She learns from her parents that they were taken to an underground city called Rahu. Priya searches out for the city and discovers it is run by a demon living in a volcano, who gets his power through fear and entrapment of women in his brothel city. The city used to be a tranquil kingdom run by Manidhari, half-snake and half-woman and her husband, Paatal. But, Rahu tricked them and turned the kingdom into a wasteland and put his servant, Amrit, in charge of luring women and controlling them. Priya has to convince her sister and the other women to leave Rahu and break his spell over them. When the women escape and return home, they face the stigma and prejudices from their own people and family — which angers Priya and leads to a dramatic conclusion.” Free download of digital comic here.
Priya and her powerful messages have reached over 26 million people worldwide through multiple platforms, books, and exhibitions. The creative team behind the series, led by producer and creator Ram Devineni, say their “comic book shatters the taboos around gender based violence through art, education, and a strong identifiable female character who is a rape survivor and superhero.” They believe that the power of the series is founded in its presentation of “very difficult topics in a very approachable and empathetic way. Readers can relate with the characters and story, and especially the main character – Priya, and understand.”