Mindy Kaling's Never Have I Ever: A brown girl's review of the highly-anticipated coming-of-age comedy series on Netflix
Log kya kahenge
Created by American actress, comedian, and writer Mindy Kaling for Netflix, Never Have I Ever is a coming-of-age half-hour comedy series about the complicated life of a modern-day first-generation Indian-American teenage girl. Loosely based on Mindy's teenagehood, the series stars newcomer (she beat 15,000 hopefuls after Mindy posted an open call on social media), Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Devi, an overachieving high school sophomore who is stubborn, smart-mouthed, and has a short temper that gets her into difficult and dramatic situations.
The first episode starts off with all the stereotypes of Indians in the US: praying to multiple Hindu gods at once (that doesn't usually happen, you pick one god at one time), an overbearing and controlling Indian mother, a super-smart daughter who just wants to be cool and experience sex (OK, the sex part is not that commonplace), the love interest is a jock (of course), and they live in the San Fernando Valley in California (yes, where else would they be?).
But as one episode leads to another, certain not-so-stereotypical revelations are tackled. For one, it's refreshing to see a racially-diverse cast in Devi's best friends — Eleanor played by Ramona Young and Lee Rodrigues as Fabiola, who are only the tip of the colourfully-casted iceberg. Devi also sees a therapist, played by Niecy Nash, which may be normal for some but is absurd for Indians. Why? We deny our feelings, bury them deep down, and pretend everything is A-OK because one, to save face, and two, what will people think? (Please see Hasan Minhaj's explanation on "log kya kahenge" for elaboration.)
The multitude of topics addressed in the 10 episodes are remarkable and spoke to me as an Indian woman. Mother and daughter face grief by denying issues from the get-go. There are explorations of parent-child relationships of control. The characters also struggle with neglect, acceptance, selfishness, arranged marriages, pressure to follow traditions, and being Indian enough — or not enough. The series also portrays inter-racial relationships, diverse friendships, and LGBT issues. It is something for everyone, without being cliché.
Under the trailer on YouTube, you'll see that comments have been positive. So many are excited to finally have Indian representation and in a realistic way. The show may start off with corny comedic stereotypes, but it doesn't take long for the endearing series to warm hearts with its gentle humour and relatability.
Never Have I Ever premieres on Netflix on 27 April.