rfi– India’s first comic book female superhero will return today to battle the deadly virus in the South Asian nation which has so far posted 9.46 million infections, 138,000 Covid deaths and its economy left in tatters by the pandemic.
Priya’s Mask will see its release at the Global Health Film Festival in London.
In her latest mission, the superhero in the animated film and in comic books will fight the pandemic in India, where beliefs and false information circulated online have blunted national efforts to stem the spread of the virus.
Priya, a gang rape survivor, has taken on gender violence, acid attack and sex trafficking in previous editions launched in 2014.
The masked superhero, who rides a tiger, will collaborate with “Burka Avenger,” a Pakistani comic strip female character.
The feisty pair will handle challenges linked to the coronavirus pandemic that has so far claimed 1.48 million lives globally.
Reckless social behavior
Film analyst Vinod Mirani said Priya’s Mask could be a step to bring social order in India where tens of thousands of farmers with scant attention to health precautions are currently protesting along Delhi’s borders.
“Adults watch movies with their kids and so naturally awareness will spread,” Mirani told RFI.
Pandemic-scarred cities such as Mumbai, Kolkata, Goa and national capital Delhi recently imposed stiff penalties after failing to convince residents to stick to anti-virus protocols.
On Monday, India’s health ministry ordered marketplaces to punish shoppers without face masks but hand out special discounts to those who stayed away and ordered online.
Police are under orders to collar those who spit in public or urinate on the roadside.
India’s entertainment industry gave the thumbs up to Priya’s Mask.
“It is a very bold step,” prominent Bollywood director Vishal Pandya said.
“People are going to love it for sure and so congratulations to the team for taking the bold initiative to do this,” Pandya told RFI.
Superhero to soothe nerves
Indian-American film-maker Ram Devineni said the latest edition of the Priya series he created also discussed mental health.
“There has been plenty of discussion on the economic and medical consequences of the virus, but very little on the emotional toll it has on people,” Midday daily quoted Devineni as saying.
“Additionally, we wanted a creative way for parents to talk about the pandemic and loneliness with their children,” he said.
Most schools in are still on a pandemic break. Parents rely on online teaching but internet and electronic devices are beyond the reach of India’s millions of dirt-poor families.
India’s stifling patriarchy
Actor Mrunal Thakur, who voice-acted the superhero said the animated film will also pass on a message to women against toxic patriarchy in India, where 90 percent of rapes are committed by people known to their victims but the violence is more often not reported.
“I want the next generation of girls to learn early and know that they have the courage and potential in them to break the shackles of patriarchy,” Bollywood’s Thakur said.
Last year, nearly four rapes were committed every hour.
“We don’t have enough women superheroes and none who are South Asian or Indian,” she added.