Friday, June 20, 2008

Shekhar Kapur's Devi: Namaha

The Devi was a goddess created from the essence of all the Hindu Gods to fight one of their own who had become evil: Bala. Devi led the Durapasya, a group of humans who fought on the side of the Gods, to the fortresses of Bala's generals and followers and conquered them. Armored in light, inspiring lust and love in all who beheld her, but not affected by those herself, and sheathed in the flames of the sun, Devi fought and defeated Bala and returned him to Bodha, ruler of the Gods, for judgement.

Bodha's decision was to imprison Bala in Jwala, a prison of fire and earth, deep below the ground. But though Devi said it would have been better to do away with Bala, Bodha couldn't bring himself to do so, for the other gods were like his sons. Devi then asked that her essence be used to funnel the power of prayers to the other gods, to replenish the power they had lost in creating her. Bodha accepted her request.

Thousands of years later, it is time for the great Devi to be reborn, and her human body is known as Tara Didi. She is the girlfriend of a man who is a gangster, and looked down upon by the local women for being a whore, but the children love her, as she helps them out.

She has serious problems, however, for a heavenly Apsara assassin has been hired to kill her, and her boyfriend, Iyam, is the reincarnation of Bala's chief general, also named Iyam, who Devi slew before she defeated Bala. It turns out that Iyam has been having fun, amusing himself with the vessel that will hold the form of Devi before he kills her. But with the Apsara Kratha on Tara's trail, he must kill her himself or feel Bala's not-so-heavenly wrath.

Tara is abducted by the Durapasya cult on her way home, but they are only saving her to sacrifice her. The only ones who seem to want to save Tara for herself is a cop, Inspector Rahul Singh, a somewhat more than normal human who leaps into the situation knowing only that Tara Didi is a young woman who will be killed if he doesn't try to intervene.

Tara must make a trip to the Gods via an infusion of Soma to come into her powers as Devi. But in this case, the Gods may have gotten themselves a little more than they bargained for, for when Tara comes into her powers, she has her own ideas about how to use them... and who deserves her ultimate allegiance.

This graphic novel was an interesting treat, written and illustrated by Indian writers and artists, and based on an entirely different mythology than western angel/devil mythology or ancient Greek/Roman/Egyptian-based systems that are more widespread in the West. The novel sets up a quick history of Devi, and Tara is introduced to the powers given to her by the Gods and the spirit of the original Devi. The story in the book ends with Tara deciding to go her own way, and given that Kratha and Iyam are still alive, as is the man calling himself Bala, it will be interesting to see how long she can go her own way with impunity. Given that the others are trying to kill her, she will have to defend herself, and may not even know quite how to use all those powers she just recieved yet.

An interesting story, and I'm very interested in seeing more. Well done.

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