Shocked by New Delhi gang rape in 2012 and the ignorant responses of law enforcers afterwards, Indian-American filmmaker Ram Devineni went on to create an innovative social impact multimedia project to help illuminate and change attitudes towards gender-based violence (GBV).
Called Priya’s Shakti, the project centers on the Goddess Parvati and Priya, a mortal devotee and rape survivor, and is rooted in ancient matriarchal traditions that have been displaced in modern representations of Hindu culture. It creates an alternative narrative and voice against GBV in popular culture through the Hindu mythological canon.
Central to the project is an augmented reality (AR) comic book and exhibition, where certain panels will be animated to feature real-life stories and voices of Indian women who have survived sexual assault and faced the ensuing trauma and social stigma. These pieces are short documentaries, with the women presented in animation in order to protect their identities.
This project highlights the threat of sexual harassment and violence that women face on a daily basis unless deeply rooted patriarchal norms are challenged.
Devineni said that following the harrowing gang rape in 2012, a police officer told him that "no good girl walks home at night." In that moment, he vowed to find a way to shake authorities and other indifferent members of society into fighting back against such rampant violence against women.
"[He was] implying that she probably deserved it, or at least provoked the attack," Devineni told The Huffington Post. "I knew then that the problem of sexual violence in India was not a legal issue; rather it was a cultural problem."
Devineni said Priya is not a typical superhero, although she rides a tiger, she has no powers. Her power is the power of persuasion, and the power of an idea.
“An idea is much more powerful than Superman’s strength or Wonder Woman’s magic lasso," he added.
The creators of the comic book have also launched the #StandwithPriya campaign to encourage public involvement on social media. They also launched an Indiegogo campaign to make the comic books readily available and to distribute them for free to schools in India. The proceed will go to the team's nonprofit partner, Apne Aap Women Worldwide, which works to empower marginalized women and end human trafficking.