We had a little chat with Debasmita Dasgupta,about her book, The Weightlifting Princess ahead of it being read to thousands of children on World Literacy Day, and here’s what she had to share:
Pratham Books: How did you go about bringing Princess Nila’s kingdom to life?
Debasmita: When I first read the story, I had two characters in mind – Princess Chitrangada from the Mahabharata and Princess Fiona from Shrek. They are poles apart but at the same time strikingly similar in many ways. Both are fighters and breaking stereotypes of beauty and gender roles. They both live in far away lands, in the woods, surrounded by mountains. So I knew my Princess Nila also lives in a forest land, like a tribal princess in ancient India. Her costumes, motifs on her body, patterns on the walls — are inspired by this concept.
Pratham Books: Thoughts on re-visualising gender norms through children’s picture books?
Debasmita: Gender is a social construction. I have always admired the books, particularly picture books, which make a conscious choice to challenge such a stereotypical construction. When children are reading picture books, they are not just observing the images and words on each page, but also absorbing their meaning.
Pratham Books: What would you like the children to ‘take home’ from the book?
Debasmita: If you have a dream, let it cost you something. Try for it, work hard, shed some sweat. Then you will earn it.
Pratham Books: What would a sequel to ‘The Weightlifting Princess’ be like?
Debasmita: “A Boxing Queen”!
Debasmita enjoys telling stories through visuals. Indian by birth, based in Singapore, Debasmita’s goal is to create art that can inspire you to sing the song of life with a positive note. She is also the founder of ‘My Father illustrations’, a series on inspiring father-daughter picture stories from across the globe.