The new Netflix rage among young desis, Never Have I Ever is our very own high school teen drama. With a nerdy Indian American teenager at the centre, a bunch of nosy desi aunties, and a grand celebration, this dramedy is packed. A creation by Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher, the show is a reflection of Mindy’s teenage years and the struggles she faced due to her cultural background.
A not-so-swift start
Never Have I Ever starts with the protagonist praying to her gods for a perfect high school experience. She asks for the high school starter pack: popularity, a boyfriend, and invitations to cool parties. After a traumatic year, Devi Vishwakumar is determined to climb up the social ladder and rebrand herself.
The first couple of episodes build the character of Devi and showcase her relationships. They show the bond she had with her dad and the trauma she faced after his recent death. We also get a peek into her complicated relationship with her mother, an overprotective single mom who wants her daughter to grow up with good Indian values and sanskaar. The family also includes her gorgeous cousin Kamla, to whom Devi is constantly compared. How delightfully Indian!
Devi is an agitated teenager who is trying to cope with her loss. And what is her defence mechanism? Like every confused teenager, anger, misbehaviour, and selfishness are the tools at her disposal.
So, moving forward, she decides to be the popular kid and “it-girl” of the school. Her target is to sleep with Paxton Hall-Yoshida, the hot jock on the swim team. So, Devi straight up tells him that, and he agrees (cringing internally). Sounds easy, right? Well, that is what everyone was made to believe. And even though nothing really happened between them, it leads to an unconventional friendship between the two.
Embracing their Indianness
It’s refreshing to see Indian American characters easily embracing their non-white backgrounds rather than trying to blend in. Devi is a curious character who gets uncomfortable with her origins sometimes and wants to run away from her Indian roots. But, on other days, she tries her best to embrace them and dresses up in a heavy saree, complete with a gajra and bindi, for a festival. All this while, she keeps having flashbacks of her father and their memories, each of which serves as a lesson for her to be who she is.
The story shows both Eleanor and Fabiola, her best friends, having their own issues which gives a little variety to the audience. And they are more than just props or side characters. The show explores their characters and their relationship with Devi, making you understand the depth of their friendship better.
Never Have I Ever can get cringy with its lame jokes but, somehow, the story is addictive. As Devi battles and navigates her way around her strict mother, ideal Indian cousin, best friends, and her childhood nemesis, you start to connect to her more. In the later episodes, you can see Devi deal with her emotional outbursts, finding her identity, and just being a normal teenage kid. The way the story revolves around an agitated, sometimes horny, nerdy teenage girl trying to find her footing is fresh and relatable.
If you want to watch something that is breezy, light, and binge worthy, you should definitely give Never Have I Ever a shot.