I should begin this article by saying that my sister has been very kindly letting Krista and I watch a couple shows on her Apple+ account. Much like everyone in the world, at least I think this is a very standard practice, my family all shares passwords to different services so that everyone can try and watch the shows they want. Krista is a huge fan of Sara Bareilles and she really wanted to watch her new show, Little Voice. The show follows Bess, a singer-songwriter, who is trying to find a place for herself in the music industry. When the series starts she is struggling with being able to perform after being heckled off of a stage while playing one of her original songs. While Bess is the lead she isn’t going to be the focus of this article. Instead I want to talk about Prisha, Shalini Bathina, her best friend and roommate.
Prisha is the daughter of conservative Indian parents and while her parents love her, they also are trying very hard to get her to marry an Indian man. We first meet her while she is trying to get a recent date to leave the apartment she shares with Bess. The guy isn’t particularly taking the hint, but we learn this isn’t just one time thing. Prisha is frequently being set up with guys and she never really wants to go out with them. Not because she doesn’t want to date, but because she is actually in the closet. She has refused to tell anyone about her feelings, but during a performance with her all female mariachi group something happens. I want to say the all female mariachi band immediately made me think of Vida, the show on Starz, and I was constantly wondering if this meant Prisha was queer. We do see a woman in the group giving her a coffee and being more attentive to her than the other members of the group, but I had to keep in mind that this doesn’t always mean two women are a thing in a show.
Going back to the mariachi event, while there Prisha and her bandmate, Ananya, sneak away and we see the two of them kiss, but the sweet moment is instantly ruined by two men yelling racist things and then doing something to physically injure Prisha. Bess and Ananya go with her to the hospital and Bess asks her why Prisha never said anything to her. We learn that Prisha just hasn’t told anyone and when her parents show up she pulls away from Ananya and keeps referring to her as a friend. This leads to issues between the two women and Prisha goes deeper into the closet, making a commitment to try and be with a guy in order to make her parents happy. She and Bess go back and forth about this, but Prisha feels like she can’t come out.
While she is with a guy she has been set up with, who she actually thinks is really nice, when he tells her he loves someone else she finally bolsters the courage to come out to him, though she does tell him that she needs him to keep this a secret. Prisha thinks that the two can just pretend to be together while they continue seeing the people they actually want to be with, but Ananya is completely not on board with this. What happens next actually pushes Prisha forward. As she grieves the loss of her relationship with Ananya, she takes a chance and comes out to her sister. This goes terribly wrong and her sister seems more annoyed by Prisha sharing this with her than anything else. After this happens, it seems like she would go back into the closet, but the opposite happens. While she does not tell her parents, she does talk with Ananya and the two seem to reach an agreement that Prisha will try to come out, but she needs time.
I know that is a lot of recapping, but I wanted to give the full scope of Prisha’s journey so far in Little Voice. I thought this representation in the series was well done. Not only were we seeing a queer Indian woman, but we were also seeing someone struggling to come out, but ultimately trying to do it. Not being accepted or worrying about acceptance is a common plot, but in this case we are able to see why it is so hard for Prisha to feel safe coming out. Part of this she specifically says ties into her desire to please her parents and give them what they’ve always wanted because they came to America to give her the best life they could. Bess does refute this a bit by saying that they would want her to be happy and should accept whatever that happiness is. Beyond really liking the story being presented through Prisha, I also was very excited to see an actor I recognized as Ananya. Nadai Mohebban was someone I watched on YouTube in the series Project Inferno on Girl Ship TV. I was just so happy to see someone I know is queer playing a queer character.
Outside of Prisha and Ananya, there is a very brief imagined scene that is tied to a song Bess is writing that I thought was very beautifully crafted. Though there are no words for the actors in the scene, we see two women preparing for a wedding. They appear to be roughly like Victorian era women and the wedding we learn is a Jewish wedding, but it is not between the two women. It is done to show a hidden love that can never be. If you haven’t seen Little Voice it is a show that really pulls you in and the music is of course fantastic. The entire first season is now available on Apple+