The Mermaid as a rebel girl

Updated: Dec 09, 2018, 11:15 IST | A Correspondent |

It's time fairytales were rewritten. Illustrator and author, 17-year-old Ariana Gupta is the girl for the job

And she lived happily ever after
And she lived happily ever after

Ariana Gupta is not yet an adult, and she's already challenging age-old stereotypes. A student of RN Podar High School, Santacruz, still in her 12th grade, the school topper  wants to become a graphic designer, and has already started working towards it. As part of her portfolio, she got her girlfriends together for a photo-shoot. "I took fairytale characters and got my friends to dress up like them. A lot of it had to do with challenging the conventional beauty standards that fairytales have set. For instance, Snow White is fair, and in India, we continue to link fairness to beauty. My Snow White had almost all skin tones. Once I was done, I realised that this had the potential to turn into a book."

Scenes from New Age Fairy Tales
Scenes from New Age Fairy Tales

That book turned out to be New Age Fairy Tales (The Write Place, '299), which was launched on December 4, in the presence of actor Farhan Akhtar. About that she says, "As you know, Mr Akhtar is a feminist. So, I wrote an email to his manager, he [Akhtar] read it and really liked what I was doing. So, he came to support me." In the New Age Fairy Tales, Gupta has rewritten and illustrated five standard fairytales: The Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella. "My Cinderella actually talks about the wage gap. She doesn't marry into the empire, but builds her own empire. And in The Sleeping Beauty, she slays the dragon herself." Apart from independent heroines, there are other silly notions that she's debunked as well.

She went on to become the best boss in the city and lived happily ever after
She went on to become the best boss in the city and lived happily ever after

For instance: "In the original Little Mermaid, she gives up her tail to be with the man she loves. But here, the sea witch, who is supposed to be evil, actually helps her and tells her how sacred her tail is and that you shouldn't change yourself for anyone. The tail is symbolic of your body. [The message is that] many people are going to ask several things of you, but you need to be more accepting of yourself. In most traditional stories, it's always women against women. That's so sad. I made sure that in my stories, women empowered each other.

And they lived happily ever after
And they lived happily ever after

In Snow White, the evil stepmother isn't evil; she just believes that her daughter will be successful only if she's fair, which is not true. The daughter sets out to prove her wrong, and goes to these seven men who run a fashion house, and she becomes one of their top models. In Beauty and the Beast, the three sisters have come to the village for a research project. A lot of boys find intelligence intimidating and girls dumb themselves down to please them. These girls do the same thing, but Beauty doesn't believe in this; she's very goal-oriented."

Beauty, Sweety and Pinky went back to school, completed their education and they lived happily ever after
Beauty, Sweety and Pinky went back to school, completed their education and they lived happily ever after

While Gupta is talking about clichés and stock characters, most teenage women grapple with feelings of inadequacy. Gupta's book is an attempt to strike that at the bud, by ensuring that strong girls grow into confident, young women.

Ariana Gupta
Ariana Gupta

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