One of the latest Netflix series, “Never Have I Ever” is a story of an Indian American teenager who is grappling to find her identity in her school in LA. The female protagonist Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Devi had a tragic first year of high school due to her father’s death and is trying to process her grief in a number of erroneous ways. She is an absolute mixture of understandably selfish, self-blind, legitimately funny and kind hearted who attempts to lose her virginity to hot jock Paxton Hall-Yoshida.
She wants to get invited to a party where there’s a lot of drugs and alcohol not so she can get wasted, but because she wants the opportunity to coolly decline. Both her best friends Eleanor and Fabiola are interesting characters who are endearing and always got her back. Devi’s mother, Nalini played by Poorna Jaganathan is an affectionate and commendable lady who is somewhere confused between whether she is a conservative South Indian trapped between her desi roots or a more contemporary dermatologist who often misreads her daughter. Devi’s cousin, Kamala is a gorgeous woman doing her masters at Caltech who dumps her South Asian boyfriend as she is torn between a life she wants for herself and the life her parents have imagined for her.
The first few episodes establish the Indianness of Vishwakumars. While at a Ganesh pooja function, Kamala meets a divorcee who marries outside her religion predictably ends up with divorced and is socially excluded. At the same event, Devi’s widowed mother, Nalini, is treated with such appalling insensitivity, sketching an alarming image of India, where widows and divorcees are treated as social pariahs.
Never Have I Ever makes an unexpected choice for the narrator of its show about the life of an Indian-American high-school girl: tennis great John McEnroe who makes an appearance in the last episode. The last two episodes explore the tensions between Devi and her mother Nalini, and finally addresses Devi’s grief which had been the underlying factor behind much of her unexplained behaviour. What interest the most about the show is the character of Devi showcased as a horny Indian girl who’s both a nerd and an asshole. One minute she gets fed up with her culture but the another minute we can see her as a teenager who is praying to Ganesha before blacking out at a house party.
The show checks off every single stereotype associated with Indians – over-protective conservative parents, nerdy children, arranged marriages, mean aunties, and then a Ganesh Puja episode which explains how the festival is celebrated.
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