The coming-of-age sophomore romcom by Mindy Kaling is slated to hit the OTT giant, Netflix on 15th July. Netflix launched the season 2 trailer of “Never Have I ever” recently. Season 02 is anticipated to continue the story of American Indian teen, Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan). Devi, like in season 01, continues to struggle with the day-to-day pressure at school and the drama with her typical Indian mother at home. As she is happy and confused at the same time while navigating a romantic relationship with her crush and friend, she feels threatened by the new sophomore entry, “pretty Indian girl, who is far prettier and cooler than her.”
I had no idea that I had been yearning for a teen romcom so badly, until I watched “Never Have I ever,” after all these days of indulging in biographical dramas and political thrillers. The 10 episode long season 1 has been a perfect recipe with all ingredients in proper proportions like comedy, love, romance, drama, and sentiment. I was furious when it ended and wanted a second season so bad.
There are so many elements in just this long series, none of them wouldn’t even have worked if it wasn’t for such a skilled protagonist. Maitreyi Ramakrishnan has gone under the skin of her role to portray the characteristics of Devi like selfishness, low self-esteem, self-conscious yet deeply caring. Although Devi identifies herself as an American; deep down her Indian-ness ties her to her traditional and cultural roots. The story of Devi in the first season starts on a tragic note. The high school sophomore gets paralyzed as she goes through a lot of pain after her father suddenly passes away. Not until she sees ‘Paxton,’ does she get up from her wheelchair and starts drifting away from her conventional Indian lifestyle. As she steps into her precious teenage years, she wants to live the coolest life. She wants to get invited to a drinks party, she wants to get asked out on a date, she wants to be in a relationship, not that they give her pleasure, just because she wants to embrace the joy of rejection.
She has a close-knitted group of 2 other friends, whom she endears and shares everything with. Eventually, the 2 other friends (Eleanor and Fabiola) turn out to be significant people of her life and Devi realizes the magic of friendship by the end of the season, although she places Paxton on top of all her near and dear ones. As Eleanor and Fabiola replace Devi with someone else, Devi starts feeling bad and realizes how they have had her back in thick and thin.
Devi’s mother role has been depicted by Poorna Jagannathan, who has done a fantastic job as a loving, supporting, and controlling typical Indian mother. Poorna as Dr.Nalini has understood the depth of the character and reflected the emotions really well. I must say that Poorna is one balanced and skilled actress, whom we can see reach places, if she continues to do the fantastic job. After Devi, Poorna has been the torch bearer of the “Indian-ness” feeling that the audience can connect with throughout the show, without feeling lost even once. Even though Nalini has been a caring and loving mother, things never go well in between both of them, right from the beginning. Devi misunderstands, oops, maybe I should say “misreads” her as she has spent most of her time in America and is completely unaware of the Indian parenting style.
The Indianness in “Devi” is the essence of the show in two ways. One, how it shapes Devi’s story and secondly, how it plays out in the typical American romcom context. As her mother tries to feed the Indian ethos and values into the mind of Devi, she begins to rebel and finally part ways with her mother.
Although the Kaling created Never Have I Ever, shares the central plot with it’s cousin narratives like “The Kissing Booth” and “To all the Boys I’ve Loved Before” but that’s not just to it. The creators cleverly informed the audience about the authenticity of an American-Indian girl trying her chances in her teen romantic life.
It is a very simple, interesting, and warm show to binge on during the lockdown blues. Each episode sends a breeze of joy and feel-good emotion, which eventually turns into a moderate thriller as Devi lies about her sex life with Paxton and he finds out about it later on. As Devi ends up alone in a swimming pool on a humiliating night, the series starts to take an emotional turn from a mere typical American teenage romcom. If you tune into Never Have I Ever with high expectations for a teenage romance, you may probably get disappointed. It is not predominantly a romantic genre; rather a mix of teenage emotions and their day-to-day fist fights with typical teenage issues. The show is diverse in the sense, it has included characters that strikes the chord with each audience. A lesbian, girl with low-self esteem, a rich guy with poor family support, and a passionate girl with no one to share her dreams with. There is a place for everyone, maybe that’s why Never Have I Ever managed to connect and relate to the audience a lot.
The series has been a decent success in showing familial love, friends’ compassion, and evoking grief from the mistakes of a teenage girl. Never Have I Ever has done fairly well and it would be a flop, if even one of the elements like love, emotion, drama, or romance is incorporated a bit more or less. The creators are brilliant to envision the correct proportion of everything to not let the audience feel overwhelmed. Unlike various other American romcoms, this is something different and fresh. It is about family, values, and love despite running on a theme of romcom. At the end, Devi realizes the value of family and joins her mother and cousin in immersing the ashes of her father, which replicates Devi’s change of attitude towards her tradition and her final act of acceptance of her father’s death.
Season 1 has set the bar too high for the Never Have I ever audience. Although the recently launched trailer looks promising enough in giving what the audience have wished for when the first season ended, fans must wait for a fortnight to see how it actually plays out. Season 1 has been released in both English and Hindi to entertain and reach non-English audiences too and it indeed got the love and praise it totally deserved. Second season is all set to entertain the audience in dual languages again, English and Hindi.