Manmarziyaan, the debut audio-book by Kamolika Bhattacharya is a work of heart. And it is about hearts. Three hearts that yearn for love and happiness. Three hearts are thrown into a whirlwind of testing circumstances which will push them to the limits of their passions.
The story begins with an illicit affair between Shaina, an aspiring actor married to a rich businessman, and Farhad a struggling writer who’s idealistic thoughts and meager earnings befit his artistic nature. Shaina’s husband Pradeep, a devious manipulator without a moral compass, uses Shaina as a trophy wife. Farhad is Shaina’s only hope to escape from her golden prison, but Pradeep finds out about her affair and all hope seems lost. It is at this point that Meera, a sprightly young NRI comes into Shaina’s life giving her a ray of hope. Meera’s happy-go-lucky nature is a facade and defense mechanism to hide a secret. A secret which Shaina is intent on exploiting to have a shot at life. And Farhad is the reluctant accomplice in this elaborate charade where the lines start getting blurred.
Shaina and Farhad seem like an unlikely couple, but then Manmarziyaan is not a story about complementary characters and convenient romances. Shaina and Farhad are bound together by their flaws, both acutely aware that without the other they would fall apart. They are like fire and water, complete opposites in thought and ideology, but only one could truly satiate the other. Meera, on the other hand, seems like a flaky youngster untouched by the harsh realities of life but we soon realize that she is probably wiser far beyond her years. The writer walks the tightrope of portraying the delicate emotions of three people on the edge. She expertly navigates the shifting viewpoints of each character while being sympathetic to their compulsions such that we can empathize with even their darkest decisions and flawed value systems.
Listening to the audiobook narrated masterfully by Sanket Mhatre, the characters come alive along with all their quirks and foibles. Sanket is able to give each character a distinct persona through his voice and as I listened I could feel these characters as real people.
The narrative tension does dip at a few places where Kamolika momentarily drops the pace of the story to delve deeper into the minds of the characters. But overall the story flows beautifully and keeps you binge-listening across the 10 episodes. By the time we reach the climax, Kamolika is able to tie all the threads together while tackling many a sensitive question like the true meaning of love and the real essence of commitment. The story blurs the lines between right and wrong, love and compassion, loyalty and righteousness. All these complex motives in a beautiful climax which feels just right and the story suddenly become much bigger and deeper than the sum of its parts. An astounding debut which is simultaneously thrilling and thought-provoking. A must hear on Storytel!!