Never say ‘Never’ again. Mindy Kaling’s crazy, comic, dramatic, colorful, saucy sitcom is back for Season 2

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Mindy Kaling and Maitreyi Ramakrishnan on the sets of ‘Never Have I Ever’.
Photo: Videograb via YouTube

Co-produced by Kaling International, Inc. and Original Langster, the show that ran for 10 episodes in the first season is now back on NetFlix July 15.

In the competitive world of TV shows, when even good shows are struggling to run past the first season, this second season of ‘Never Have I Ever’ proves the show’s popularity.
This may be due to numerous reasons, beginning with the fact that Mindy Kaling is one of the producers, that it is not a heavy and serious and sad look at the teenager’s slow entry into the real world, that it takes a typical Mindyish look at cultural baggage that first generation immigrant Americans born here carry, that everyone has acted very well.
Beginning in 2020, the ten episodes of the first season stuck the audiences with its multicultural characters and their consternations in school. The second season will premier on July 15 on Netflix, taking a look at more of the cool South Asian and Asian teenagers in America.
This coming of age story has appealed to the adults sitting in their ivory towers of isolation while Covid was raging outside, making them smile and making them laugh – a lot sometimes. And through all the laughs ran an undercurrent of ironical sense of humor, quite unlike the American slapstick comedy, although that also pops up often, more as a parody, if one wants to think.
Stories of adolescence we have had many, and some really touching ones. One can recall  “Wonder Years”, “My So Called Life”, “Life Goes On”.  Middle class families of the adolescents we have seen many.
Maitreyi Ramakrishnannn -cover photo- Twitter@ramakrishnannn

Some we find very hard to forget, like Becka’s family in “Life Goes On”. One thing they all had in common was the serious trait. So every adolescent has problems, perpetual ones at that.

All those stories were looking back at adolescence after having grown up. “Never Have I Ever” does it too. And if “Wonder Years” brought back Beetles, “Never..” brings back references to Tennis, with McEnroe narrating the story. And while the other shows relied on quiet moments, “Never Have I Ever” creates this typical non-stop chatty atmosphere of today.
Teenagers in “Never..” talk too much and talk too fast. That is where lies its appeal. It makes one feel like sitting in a speeding train. And perhaps that has also added to the show’s appeal to Covid-afraid homebound adults reduced to no-motion days, (except those on walking mats in front of their desks). It has created a semblance of so much speed.
Otherwise, Devi is just another teenager, like all the others. Or is she ? Not really. She is a teenager of Indian Origin. That means, she has a war going on within between her Americanness and her Indianness which has been thrust upon her by her First Generation Immigrant parents.
This Indian American teenager has her undealt-with, pushed-deep- in-the-psyche grief issues of her father’s passing. But the Kaling touch doesn’t let us dwell on the trauma of this. The story, just like Devi-the-teenager, jumps up on its feet and then begins the endless running after the hot guys, in and out of the bedrooms, classrooms, gyms, corridors, family functions, race.
Maitreyi Ramakrishnannn Photo: Videograb via YouTube

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan comes through, sparkling, and appears totally at home in all the situations. It is quite unbelievable that this is her first acting job. Ramakrishnan had acted in school plays in her 10th grade, and had developed a passion for acting.

But she had not acted professionally before “Never…” At 17, she saw Kaling’s post about open casting and she was selected from among 15,000 candidates. And the rest has been history. Today named her one of eighteen “Groundbreakers”, a list of girls that were breaking down barriers and changing the world. Variety called her performance a “breakout performance”.
Speaking of the role of Maitreyi in a video interview in 2020, Ramakrishnan had mentioned how she related to the role.
Born and raised in Mississauga, Ontario, she traces her roots to Tamils of Sri Lanka, her parents having come to Canada in their 20s. She mentions how she began to question her cultural and political identity. She is Canadian in her own eyes. But she is also perceived as Sri Lankan, and her parents carry the cultural belongingness within them.
Her identity questions are not new to second generation immigrant children. But however confusing these questions have been, these children and teenagers have been able to avoid the heartache their parents have felt of leaving their home behind and not being able to relate to the changes in their countries when they visit. “Never…”has brought these forward quite lightly instead of weighing down the show and slowing down the pace.
Her beautifully natural portrayal of Maitreyi has landed Ramakrishnan a film role in another Netflix romantic comedy The Netherfield Girls. In the meantime, in 2021, she has been nominated for the Independent Spirit Award’s “Best Female Performance in a new scripted series”, Canadian Screen Award’s “Cogeco Fund Audience Choice Award”, and MTV Movie & TV Awards’ Best Kiss (with Jaren Lewison).
The rest of the cast has also been just as impressive as Ramkrishnan.
Poorna Jagannathan (Dr. Nalini Vishwakumar in the show) is very convincing as Maitreyi’s mother. Lee Rodriguez as Fabiola Torres, and Ramona Young as Eleanor Wong have created a real life immigrant American trio of friends with Ramkrishnan.
All of them have spoken in past video interviews of how easy it was for them to act with Kaling, who let them bring their own person to the role. They came up with convincing representations of their ethnic identities due to this freedom, according to them.
Kaling had perhaps experienced some of this dual identity trepidation, having been born to Indian parents in Cambridge, Massachusetts. For “Never…” she has drawn on some of her own experiences providing a reality base to the screen portrayals of the second generation immigrant Americans.
Humor seems to have had an old appeal to Kaling who has been an actor, comedian, writer, producer and director. She holds fast to her loyalty to humor even in “Never…”, making the realities of the characters and the realities of the Covid-stricken world bearable to a lot of people and survive the stresses of a changed world.
Archana Adalja is a freelance writer based in New York City.
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