Milan Vohra : ‘Romance shouldn’t be the only goal’

Insight Online News

Milan Vohra, 57, was the first Indian to write a Mills & Boon romance. Then 45 and an advertising professional, she won a contest organised by Harlequin Enterprises in 2009, and it changed her life.

“I’d been writing short stories for myself for years. In advertising, I was telling stories. But none of them was romance. When this opportunity came along, I wasn’t even sure if I should try,” Vohra says. Then her wedding anniversary came around, and turned out to be a day of demanding house guests. “I decided there had to be more romance to life. That led me to finally sit down and write a story for the contest.”

In a year, the story was a book, The Love Asana, about a self-made billionaire who arm-twists Pari, a yoga instructor, into marrying him as revenge for what he believes to be her brother’s role in his sister’s death. It’s only after they are married that he begins to fall in love with Pari.

She wanted her novel to be distinctly Indian, so she found herself explaining to the British editors that the protagonists’ large families had to be a big part of the plot; that the hero could live with his mother. “I was teaching them about India, they were teaching me about writing romance,” Vohra says.

The book gave Vohra what she calls her “15 seconds of fame”. And then she didn’t want to write Mills & Boon romances anymore. “For them, romance is all about the hero and the heroine. Whereas I wanted to tell a story where romance is part of the story, but it’s not the only goal,” she says. “I wanted to write stories where I could talk about my characters outside of what was happening in one room, stories that reflected my understanding of women in India.”

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Vohra has written five such novels since. Her 2019 book Our Song with HarperCollins was about a struggling music composer who falls in love with a rich corporate honcho, but it touched upon themes of gender politics within the world of Hindustani music, abuse, consent. Vohra reimagined The Love Asana in 2020, making the dynamic between the protagonists more equal and bringing in themes of domestic violence. Her latest, The Call (2021), is about a new mother faced with a decision that challenges her ideals.

“Simple things like incorporating a condom in a sex scene are also important, because it then normalises this behaviour,” Vohra says

One thing she wishes for for all romance writers? “That we could get rid of the judgmental way people see romance novels. They can push for change in many ways and be statements of changing times. People should stop being apologetic about reading, enjoying them.”

Courtesy : Press reader

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