Author: Madhuri Shekar
Evil Eye is an Audible original tale that combines the compelling nature of theater with the dark truths hidden by families and the fear that only an endlessly ringing, unanswered phone can elicit. It starts innocently enough – Usha and her husband are loving, fairly modern Indian parents who dote on their Americanized, now-living (and college educated) in America daughter, the feisty Pallavi. They may be good and loving parents, but distance has its price and while a thirty year old unmarried girl in the US isn’t news, it’s more than a little concerning to the doting Usha, who sees it as her job to arrange the perfect marriage. Begin the setups and the mishaps and the miscommunications. All regular inter-generational, inter-cultural stuff, nevertheless made endearing and amusing by the strong bond of the family that shines out through their harried phone calls and voicemails, love and frustration the same side of an ever flipping coin.
Everything takes a different tinge though when Pallavi does find love – and not with her mother’s help. Thinking her mom will nevertheless be happy that she has found and fallen for an Indian boy, Sandeep, Pallavi is shocked to discover that the all-too-perfect new romance has opened up deep chasms and old fears in her mother’s suddenly shattered mental health. Her mother can’t be right, after all. Curses don’t exist and can there really be something sinister in this friendly new boy with his chirpy voice and endless ability to support? Usha just must be feeling the full weight of an empty nest – right? Or is it possible that maybe things are a little too perfect to be true. . .
Emerging playwright Madhuri Shekar effortlessly creates a story vibe that could go either way – innocent or sinister, especially in the character of Pallavi’s love interest, the well-played Sandeep whose double edged conversations can mean anything (and everything) the listener wants them to, for good or for evil.
Each character is played by a different actor, each fitting into this world of phone calls and voicemails and towards the end, eerie, trilling silences. This is a story told solely through audio, a flipside of the old-school epistolary novel, and so the voices and their ever so slight changes tell us everything we need to know and paint a world where ever so slowly, all that we know and trust is carefully, mindfully pulled away. The words themselves are layered with more than one meaning, and it’s this element that makes it difficult to guess – is Usha an overprotective mother going through a dangerous breakdown or is Pallavi’s love interest someone (maybe something) entirely different than what it appears. Either way, we’re invested and the outcome certainly won’t match the light beginning. It will be dark and shattering and along the way we’ll hear about Usha’s past. About a bridge. A pregnancy. An enemy. And what a mother has to, must do, to survive.
Evil Eye is a powerful story from a new voice – one I expect we’ll hear from again. The expert presentation (Audible Original has some money for some very good talent) alongside the manner of storytelling and the story itself, all combine to create an aura that is unshakable and deeply visceral. I plan to return to the Original’s program for more monthly picks and also keep an eye out on this author. She’s going places.
– Frances Carden
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