Author: Anamika Mishra
For her second fictional work Voice Mates, Anamika Mishra did not have to go far. Taking a leaf out of her life, the writer was inspired to pen a story revolving around a teenage girl, a perfect child in every sense, who harbours the secret desire to become a singer, but is unable to convey this to her parents.
What do you get when you take a script which reads like a Bollywood love story, use a female lead instead of a male one, throw in a popular reality show, tune the climax to modern sensibilities and write in a flowing style? You get VoiceMates.
Books that are essentially Bollywood love stories in print are written all the time. It’s a hard task to write a good love story though. What is more difficult, it seems, is that the protagonist be a woman, yet one who could fit well into any 90s movie.
As far as the plot goes, it’s not exactly run-of-the-mill 90s romance, but it isn’t too unique. A rich girl with traditional parents aspires to become a famous singer, via a popular international music competition. Naturally, her parents oppose, and she has no hope in hell until she meets a guy.
Sounds fairly normal. Except that Tulip, not Sam, is the protagonist of the tale. The somewhat familiar script is saved by a very readable writing style. The language is simple but crisp, and plenty of first person narrative is used. Events, like scenes in a good movie, are described vividly, and the central characters – Tulip and Sam, have been fleshed out reasonably well. The story maintains a flow and consistency – it traces Tulip’s journey to attempted superstardom without much distraction, or any attempt to build a secondary narrative.
Tulip is the kind of woman some wouldn’t find realistic in the world of today. She’s simple to a fault, and for some reason the author found it necessary to present the character like that. In short, she is a perfect caricature of a good Indian girl, repeated innumerable times in those movies of the 90s.
Her simplicity however, would appeal to those who are nostalgic of that era – and have a soft corner for tradition. Nevertheless, despite the initial skepticism, one simply cannot dislike Tulip. She is sometimes cheesy, emotional and diffident – yet these attributes have not been overdone. In fact, I would go far as to say this – the book gives us a fair insight into how modern Indian children, especially girls, have to balance parental or social orthodoxy and the pursuit of their own dreams. Like Tulip, it seems we all try to wrap our lives around both our family and our ambitions. In that sense, the story touches a chord with an Indian audience.
Sam – the other main character of this tale – is less attractive in the beginning (It seems all women have a soft spot for men who play the guitar, but nevertheless). We see him as an enabler of Tulip’s dream rather than an individual in his own right. However, as the story progresses, our indifference turns to curiosity and curiosity to concern for Sam. So much so, that story focuses nearly as much on Sam as on Tulip, by the time we come to its climax. The climax itself is a surprise, though the idea used for it isn’t.
The caricatures though could have been tweaked. Rich girl, poor boy. Innocent girl new to the cruel world outside her home, mad-in-love boy with an ambition. Boy guides girl on the path to achieving her dream, assuming the role of the wiser one. You are sometimes left feeling that the protagonist of a novel written in 2015 could have had a slightly wilder, more powerful side to her personality.
Thus, VoiceMates is a mixture of a fairly common script and some stereotypical characterisation combined with lucid writing, a female protagonist, well fleshed out characters, a flowing narrative and a surprising climax. It isn’t anything like a classic, but it’s far more enjoyable than the thousands of mundane, done-to-death love stories masquerading as books that flood the market. Three stars then – no more and no less.
Official Website: http://www.anamikamishra.com/