Never Have I Ever, a Netflix original created by Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher and based roughly on her childhood starring newcomer Maitreyi Ramakrishnan in the role of Devi Vishwakumar comes off as a mixture of an enjoyable comedy and emotional joy-ride with strains of coarseness to it.
Devi, an Indian-American teenager breaks the stereotypical perception of the stingy uptightness the outside world is used to perceiving an Indian to be. Having had a disastrous freshman year resulting from the death of her father Mohan (Sendhil Ramamurthy) and being induced in temporary paralysis of her limbs, Devi prepares to have an eventful year which pretty much sums up with the array of events that pull and push her off the cliff of sanity. Although Ramakrishnan happens to successfully portray the sex-crazed hormonal girl her team fails to understand this hackneyed trope has gone beyond over-usage into a cacophony of utter non-sense. Which guy in his right state of mind would allow his body to be felt up just for the sake of nothing? Paxton Hall-Yoshida (Darren Barnet), a half Japanese-American senior in Devi’s school and the cause of one of her major dilemmas accepts to jump right into action out of nowhere? How cringe-worthy is that?
Apart from the Paxton-Devi scenes which appear a bit out of thread and silly (it’s teenage drama so it has to be silly right?) her best-friends Eleanor (Ramona Young) and Fabiola (Lee Rodriguez) are equally over-done as well. Everyone apart from the female lead seems to be a bit out of character, pulling the strings so hard that after one point their actions become unwanted and unnecessary. In some places the mother becomes more of a screeching and screaming nobody than an understanding mother; Devi’s cousin appears to be a bit of a shallow person as she easily does away with her boyfriend just so to adhere to the strict family norms and not marry a non-Indian. Come on this is the twenty-first century, even parents are bound to outdo their age-old beliefs and are Indian parents, complete aliens, do they not care for their children’s happiness, are they stone-cold demons or something? Devi’s over-indulgence in Paxton costs her dearly as she comes off as selfish and self-conceited making her drift away from her best-friends. But then again aren’t best friends supposed to be understanding and not hide secrets from each other? Every major crisis beginning with Devi’s sexual attraction towards Paxton, to Fabiola, ’s coming out and Eleanor’s not-so-famous mom turning up after ages seem to be happening right at the same time. The plot is less of a comedy and more of an unrealistic and unexpected turn of events that leaves us with a lopsided half-hearted laugh instead of punching the air-bags out of us. John McEnroe and Andy Samberg’s (Brooklyn Nine-Nine anyone?) narration breathes fresh air into the usual monotony. This show is a big leap for the South-Asian community which is the least represented in American television despite forming one-third of the American diaspora and legal citizens. The Indian audience would warm up to the show as it’s more or less a sketchy portrayal of the same community but things have changed a bit now and people are no longer interested in arranged-marriages only and no-talking to boys drama as we as Indians are past the stone-age the writers are still stuck in. The over Indianisation and Indian-possessiveness come off as a major turn off for us which becomes suffocating and annoying after some time as real-life teenagers are bored of the corny drama. Just as the extra cheese on the pizza bread might become nauseating, in a very similar manner the melodramatic trope might prove detrimental in the long run.
I’ll give it a six-point five out of ten as although Kaling is not the first to focus the limelight on an Indian character (we already have Quantico for that) she has done a good job in breaking the conventional image borne by an Indian-teenager which honestly has been very brave of her to do so. There are lots of flaws like the confusing Devi’s affection for her rival Ben (Jaren Lewison) and the dearth and bursting forth of energy by the supporting cast all at the same time is a bit grating on the nerves, not to mention the unrealistic way some scenes come off. The show would have been a lot better and entertaining if it had been planned properly and I just hope the creator wouldn’t make everything awkwardly dramatic where an Indian is involved as believe it or not we’re not so cheesy and corny as we’re portrayed, we’re quite normal with normal problems and solutions rather than being extra-superstitious for a coyote to become familiar with! The season ends with a major cliffhanger whether Devi gets together with Ben or Paxton or does her family does shift to India or not? All we can do is wait for the next season to clear up the mess and answer all our questions and solve the riddles.
Cast and crew
Director(s): Tristram Shapeero, Kabir Akhtar, Linda Mendoza, Anu Valia.
Writer(s): Lang Fisher, Mindy Kaling, Aaron Geary, Ben Steiner, Amina Munir, Chris Schelicher, Justin Noble, Erica Oyama, Akshara Sekar, Matt Warburton.
Starring: Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Darren Barnet, Ramona Young, Lee Rodriguez, Poorna Jagannathan, Jaren Lewison, Richa Moorjani, Sendhil Ramamurthy.