There are very few shows that you can watch with your teenage niece and 70-year-old parents, but Never Have I Ever is that show. Now in its third season, Mindy Kaling’s comedy about an Indian family in America continues to make history. Never Have I Ever stars Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Devi Vishwakumar, a teenager, who lives with her mother, played brilliantly by Poorna Jagannathan, and her cousin, Kamala, played by Richa Moorjani. Moorjani, along with Devi’s grandmother, Nirmala (Ranjita Chakravarty), delivers some of the show’s best comedic moments, and SheKnows had the pleasure of sitting down with both Moorjani and Jagannathan to discuss the most pressing issues of season 3. Read on for their thoughts on the show’s long-running love triangle, plus how their own Indian parents would have reacted to Devi’s angsty shenanigans — or as we like to call them, Devi’s greatest hits.
Here are some of the complicated situations Devi found herself in that we presented to Jagannathan and Moorjani: Your parents walking in on you hooking up with someone in your bedroom, cheating on a partner, stealing alcohol, dating Paxton, cheating in school, and more. Keep an eye on Jagannathan especially, because she answers every question as if she could still get in trouble with her parents at this very moment. Moorjani lives with this same fear, but also lives on the edge and confesses every single thing she did in high school that her parents didn’t know then, but will know now after watching this interview. Let’s just say these two were some smooth criminals in school. One of them was a signature forger in second grade! Devi would never!
One of the show’s biggest storylines is the core love triangle between Devi, Paxton, and Ben. This season, a third suitor is brought on. (Suitor? Am I from the 1800s? Yes.) Nirdesh, AKA “Des,” played by Anirudh Pisharody, catches Devi’s eye immediately — and in watching this season with my 16-year-old niece, Emma, I noticed that she was experiencing something I never had growing up in Connecticut. My mother once commented that she didn’t think I was interested in dating Indians, but that wasn’t true — it’s just that all the Indians I interacted with growing up were related to me. Not exactly love interest material, Mom. And I didn’t even see Indian love interests in the movies and TV shows that I watched growing up. For me, it was all Ross and Rachel, and the hundreds of other famous white TV couples.
But the same isn’t true for my niece. As I watched Emma quickly forget who Paxton and Ben were the minute Nirdesh (“Des”) walked on screen, I realized how groundbreaking Never Have I Ever is. Emma gets to see people who look like us as romantic leads — and as a result, she gets to have the Indian TV crushes I never could as a teen. Don’t bother talking to Emma about Ben: she’ll always be Team “Nerdesh.” And I think if she ran into Mindy Kaling on the street, Mindy should run.
I asked Jagannathan and Moorjani for their thoughts on this all-important love triangle (turned square), and their answers made me realize how important it is to make sure we show representation on every level, from romantic leads to best friends — and not just comic foils and supporting characters. Looking back, I don’t think America was ready for Raj and Rachel. But thanks to Kaling’s Devi, we’re not only ready for it, but we need it.
The best parts of season 3 are the family moments between Devi and her mother (Jagannathan), and Kamala (Moorjani) and her grandmother. Jagannathan’s Nalini goes through one of the best evolutions this season. Side note: Nalini also happens to be the best dressed in every single episode. In her, we see that Devi’s mother isn’t just a strict Indian mom out to be a fun-killer, but is a young woman who lost her husband and partner, and sacrificed her own comfort and happiness to raise her child in a country that is not her home and that has not always made her feel welcome. There is a key scene between Nalini and Devi in the finale of season 3 that makes us all realize that ultimately, Never Have I Ever is a love story about mother and daughter. It is one of the strongest scenes in the show’s history, and Jagannathan and Ramakrishnan will have you weeping.
To find out how Jagannathan and Moorjani’s parents would have reacted, and why they might not be Team Paxton or Team Ben for Devi, you’ll have to watch the video. But nobody tell Moorjani’s parents about this video. It will be our little secret. Season 3 of Never Have I Ever is airing on Netflix, and Kaling continues to give us the stories we so desperately needed, and manages to make us laugh and cry every step of the way.