Kismetisa Reviews Priya’s Shakti

*Trigger Warning: This content contains subject matter that is sensitive, and may elicit a reaction from the reader. Article contains references to sexual assault.*

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Since debuting in December at the Mumbai film and comic convention (2014) Priya’s Shakti has gained tremendous momentum and visibility. Media sources from all over the globe have aided in spreading the word about a new superhero on the scene, and what makes her so special. Evidence of how popular and lauded this project had become was in the way it came to me via social media- namely, all at once. Within a single morning I saw multiple sources post relating to this content; from a comic specific source, to a page about equality. I was convinced- a comic that has caught the attention of the masses and contained a powerful message? That was something I had to see for myself.

 

So, why all the fuss over “Priya’s Shakti”? If it is just another comic, why is it making such a huge splash in the news? Why should anyone who isn’t typically into comics even care?
While there are several things that set this comic apart, the primary focus that has gained so much traction is the origin. No, I am not speaking only of Priya’s back story, though the project’s origin is relayed through Priya’s experiences.
The project that developed into “Priya’s Shakti” was inspired by the response to the highly publicized gang rape that occurred on a bus in New Delhi back in December of 2012.

 

Seeing the backlash and social stigma that came with being a survivor of sexual assault was what fueled the fire to expose the public to a social media impact project to bring about change. The project was to center around bringing gender based violence to the forefront, and challenge viewers to reflect on the world and what is happening around them. How better to do this, than by featuring a story about a girl who was, herself, a sexual assault survivor?

 

The profound message of the importance of gender equality and abolishing gender based violence is told beautifully through the intertwining stories of Priya, and the Goddess Parvati who inhabits Priya’s body after a sexaul assault. Hearing the cry of her devotee, Parvati witnesses all of Priya’s past experiences, and becomes enraged at what she sees.
After being assaulted, Priya goes home and is cast out because of what had been done to her. In an attempt to seek justice, Parvati (through Priya) seeks out aid from a council who only furthers the pain and suffering by blaming Priya for the assault. With no resolution, Parvati goes on to seek out the assailant- who Priya has known since she was a child.
Again, Parvati is faced with excuses and blame being placed on the victim.
In the midst of confronting Priya’s rapist, he tries once more to force her and Parvati reveals herself.
Lord Shiva feels Parvati’s anger at the injustice and curses all of mankind for their wicked ways. The punishment being that no children were to be born. This leads to chaos among the mortals and a war among the gods, who were torn on the matter. Was it right to punish all for the deeds of a few? Weren’t women being punished for a crime committed against them?
Through a series of events, Priya is selected by the Goddess Parvati to be the one to enact change and restore Lord Shiva’s faith in humanity as a provision for lifting the curse.
So through villages Priya rides upon a tiger (her Shakti) and chants the mantra:

Speak without shame, and stand with me… and be the change you wish to see!

The project is a first in regards to international expanse and social engagement.
The use of Blippar, a free app, turns this comic download into what the creator’s are coining an “augmented reality (AR) comic/exhibition”. Illustrations become tappable and turn into animation. Particular panels, meant as mini documentaries, are narrated and feature true stories of sexual assault survivors. In these panels animations are used to protect the identities of the women who came forward. Over all, these little details made for an authentic and powerful experience that is unlike anything a typical comic could portray.

 

General Overview:
This story resonated with me.
I felt emotionally invested in the characters, and when I was on the last page I was hoping there was more.

Can anyone enjoy this story?

I firmly believe that there are many things about this comic to enjoy, whether you are an advocate of gender equality/women’s rights or not. The introduction of a few characters gives variety, and although it is Priya’s story the reader is given a chance to connect with the secondary characters like Lord Shiva. As the story progresses into more chapters/issues we will likely meet even more characters to relate to and enjoy.
The fact that there is a message, and the comic could succeed as a standalone (is notable on the basis of plot, characters, illustration, etc) makes it a double whammy.

 

Any regrets?

Any potential negatives that can be said for “Priya’s Shakti” would have to be that we didn’t get as much of a feel for Priya as I think we should have, as the greater part of the book she is inhabited by the Goddess Parvati. While we do see her past experiences and know that she is a good hearted person, as well as a survivor, we don’t get to hear much of her voice until the end. Again, this will most likely be a non-issue in the following works.

There are so many layers to this project, that I can not possibly delve into them all in one article. This review is meant to be a brief overview, and to hopefully encourage you as a reader to go pick up a copy for yourself. That being said, there will be a second article coming with us taking a closer look at Priya as a character, where the next chapter of the story may take us, the social impact this project has had, and much more.

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