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Sunday, Sep 22, 2019

Fighting gender violence: Acid attack survivors get a graphic novel

Superhero Priya makes a comeback in the sequel, Priya’s Mirror, which focuses on acid attacks and the gnawing problem of gender-based violence.

books Updated: Oct 14, 2016 08:14 IST
Lakshana Palat
Lakshana Palat
Hindustan Times
Priya’s Mirror was crafted through augmented reality by the app Blippar to bring stories to life.
Priya’s Mirror was crafted through augmented reality by the app Blippar to bring stories to life. ( )

In a society where rape and acid attack survivors are often alienated, it’s pivotal to create awareness and understanding among people. The graphic novel, Priya’s Mirror, which marks the return of the powerful protagonist and superhero Priya, will be launched later this month.

The book was crafted through augmented reality (AR) by the app Blippar to bring stories to life.

“We thought of Priya, after being involved in the protests against the Nirbhaya rape of 2012,” says Ram Devineni, one of the writers. While the first book, Priya’s Shakti dealt with rape victims, the second book focuses on victims of acid attacks, inspired by real-life incidents.

“The acid in the story is a symbol of the toxic masculinity so prevalent today, which corrodes a person from inside,” says Paromita Vohra, another writer of the book.

A still from the book.

In the new book, Priya, a gang-rape survivor, joins a group of acid attack survivors who fight against the tyrannical king Ahankar, and his demonic hold over them. Needless to say, this premise is deeply symbolic of the strong grip patriarchy has over us today.

“We wanted to break through the stereotypes, and to try and build an understanding with our readers. Only with understanding, can there be a change in society. We need to fight against patriarchy- not just women, but men as well. It’s important to include men in the conversation,” says Vohra.

Recreating the trauma of acid attack survivors was not an easy task. “The biggest challenge was getting the story down, and to capture the pain. I wanted to show the scars, but to do this, you need a very delicate hand, without crossing a certain line and hurting sentiments,” says Dan Goldman who is the artist.

The book wishes to portray the courage and beauty of the survivors, and let the world know that these women have nothing to hide from, and the scars do not define their identity. The ‘mirror’ in the story reflects a person for who they are inside, and not their external appearance.

“There’s a scene in the book where Priya holds the ‘mirror of love’ to the survivors- and tells them ‘You are not your scars’,” says Goldman. “The idea behind this, was to show that they’re not just victims of acid attacks. They’re whole people, and they deserved to be seen beyond their external appearance and move forward from the incident. The incident does not define them or their lives,” says Vohra.

Priya’s Mirror tackles the problem of gender violence around the world.
Priya joins forces with a group of acid attack survivors as they fight against the demon-king, Ahankar, and his tyrannical hold on them.

The writers did extensive research, before writing the book. They spoke to many people, NGO’s, and many of these brave survivors were part of the ideation process as well, and some went on to become characters in the story as well, for instance Monica Singh who also co-created the book as well, and Priya Laxmi, who is an acid attack survivor. This indeed, does set an inspiring tone for those who have undergone such incidents.

Priya Laxmi. The characters in the stories are inspired from real life. (Dan Goldman)
Monica Singh, who is also a character in the story. (Dan Goldman)

In today’s world, it is crucial that issues such as misogyny and gender violence are addressed. “Rape and acid attacks are not just specific to India, they’re something everyone has to deal with. We wanted the conversation to start from India and from there take the conversation forward,” says the artist, Dan Goldman who also worked on the book.

First Published: Oct 14, 2016 08:12 IST