Never Have I Ever’s first season set up the foundations for Devi Vishwakumar (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) exploring her Indian heritage and identity. In the second instalment of Mindy Kaling’s Netflix series, the teenager is still figuring it out (aren’t we all?) but has a firmer grasp on her self-worth as she calls out problematic societal expectations towards women of colour.
According to actor Ramakrishnan, there’s an important line in the second half of season two that is “underrated” and deserves more attention. When her cousin Kamala Nandiwadal (Richa Moorjani) asks for advice about how to deal with her sexist and racist boss, Devi’s response is what all Asian women need to hear in 2021.
“Kamala, you’ve been wronged, and it’s OK to demand it be righted,” says Devi. “Everyone thinks Asian women will take all kinds of crap, like bow or hand them a cup of tea or some shit. You can’t let them.”
Maitreyi said this line speaks to the season’s recurring theme that brown women must take up space.
“I've been saying that that is one of the most underrated lines of season two, I'm telling you right now,” Maitreyi told Refinery29 Australia over Zoom.
“Remember in season one when Devi was like, ‘Sometimes I’m too Indian or I’m not Indian enough, and all I want to do is eat a damn doughnut’? I think that's this season's line, but I love it even more than the last one because it's just straight up calling it out – like, no metaphors.”
Growing up in Canada as the daughter of Tamil refugees, Ramakrishnan is all too familiar with the negative stereotypes linked to South Asian women. For her, the line is about flipping the status quo and also shows Devi maturing since season one.
“It's just, this is the expectation that people have for South Asian women, and it sucks,” said Ramakrishnan. “And you can't let them, you just can't. They're gonna do it to you, but you can't.
“I love that the aftermath of that advice really resonates with Kamala, because then she embraces her inner Devi and she really pops off in her lab [where she works], which was really, really badass.”
Ramakrishnan also points out that there are more lighthearted moments where Devi comes into her own, including when she is caught dating Paxton Hall-Yoshida (Darren Barnet) and Ben Gross (Jaren Lewison) at the same time.
“I'm not condoning cheating or anything OK, like cheating is bad, but it's sort of nice to see the brown girl play two white guys. I said it, it's true,” she laughed.
“We’re switching it up. We’re switching up the narrative and it’s sort of satisfying. She definitely holds the power and it's pretty awesome.”
Never Have I Ever Season 2 is streaming now on Netflix.