On a platform full of stellar teen dramas like Atypical, Sex Education, Elite, and more, where does Never Have I Ever stand?
Devi Vishwakumar has three wishes from god because she believes that they need to make it up to her. One: She would like to be invited to a party with alcohol and hard drugs, not because she wants to do them, but because she wants the opportunity to refuse. Two: She would love her arm hair to thin out, yes, it is an Indian thing, but who would like their arms to look like the floor of a barbershop?
And lastly, she would really, really like a boyfriend, but no nerd would do it for her, she wants a ‘stone-cold hottie who could rock her all night long.’ He can be dumb as long as he exists. And thus, the viewer is transported into a coming-of-age rom-com, co-created by Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher.
This new Netflix series navigates the story of a teenager who is not only juggling with two cultures, Indian and American but is also trying to deal with grief. That does not make her any less excited to reinvent herself and she is definitely ready to have sex (at least in her mind).
Played by Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, Never Have I Ever, follows Devi’s life. Her parents moved to the United States in 2001, and while they remained true to their Indian roots, she apparently was all-American.
Devi who worshiped her father (Sendhil Ramamurthy), lost him to a heart attack at her school orchestra concert while she was performing.
If that was not enough, a week later, her legs stop working and she becomes partially paralysed, at least for three months, until one day in her attempt to get a better view of the swim-team dreamboat Paxton Hall-Yoshida (Darren Barnet), she starts walking again, just like that.
No, these are not spoilers, these are just the first five minutes of the series, which is narrated by legendary tennis player John McEnroe. One might ask why a sports icon is narrating a story of an Indian American teenager, well, he has a good reason for it. It will make sense later.
After a pretty bad year, Devi returns to her school, determined to have a ‘sexy sophomore experience’ and if it is with Paxton, with his chiseled face and dreamy body, it would be ideal. But that is not so easy, is it? Especially when you have a typical Indian mom, Nalini, played by Poorna Jagannathan.
The series has an extremely diverse cast. From her best friends, Eleanor (Ramona Young) and Fabiola (Lee Rodriguez) who are on board with Devi’s quest to having a great, sexy year, her crush, Paxton, who is half Japanese, to her therapist Dr. Ryan (Niecy Nash), who wants Devi to confront her grief, pretty much every actor on the show is a character of colour.
Ben Gross, Devi’s high school nemesis, played by Jaren Lewison develops the most throughout the series, and yes, we have Andy Samberg to narrate his story. He has a good reason for it too.
Another important character in the series is Kamala (Richa Moorjani), Devi’s cousin, a Cal Tech grad student whose family wants her to have an arranged marriage, because well, they are Indian and most people can relate with that, including me.
It is a well-written story with great casting, each appropriate to their character. Maitreyi’s portrayal of Devi is excellent, considering she is a newcomer whom Mindy Kaling found through an open casting call on Instagram. She delivers remarkable comic timing and savage takedowns.
The series also toggles female friendships. Her best friends are no sidekicks. Both of them have their own storyline which the series explores. It would not be wrong to say that each character in the series is not there for the sake of it or to just fill the screen space, each of them has their own journey and a reason to be there.
It is a heart-warming story with authentic performances and I have to confess that I cried every time there was a scene with her father plus all throughout the last episode.
The show which is presently one of the top 5 Netflix shows all around the world, has garnered huge critical acclaim. As of yet, its IMDB rating is 8.4/10, and google is filled with amazing 5-star reviews from the viewers.
Speaking of the massive success of her Netflix series, Never Have I Ever, Mindy wrote on Instagram, ‘I’m truly in shock, I can’t believe that our show about a complicated little Indian family has been seen by this many people.’
Though there has been no confirmation of a second season, the success of the first one is a good sign. The chances are good. At least the fans are waiting for it.
Rating: 4.5/5 (I have a personal reason to take back the 0.5, if I reveal it, it will be a spoiler. I am not over-hyping the series, you need to see it and come back to me, then we’ll talk!)