Puja Mohindra wants to launch the next hit webseries.
She was inspired by working with Issa Rae after the now-famous “Insecure” star launched her own webseries, “The Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl.” Mohindra moved back home to Chicago and crafted a one-woman show that eventually morphed into a new series, premiering Wednesday. It’s called “Geeta’s Guide to Moving On” and draws its inspiration from a devastating breakup Mohindra went through.
She plays the lead, Geeta Gidwani, an energetic 20-something who Mohindra describes as an “emotional dreamer.” Unfortunately, Geeta’s dreams of marital bliss by 30 come crashing down on the day of her engagement party, when her fiancé announces he is breaking up with her after a 10-year relationship.
Who else should come to her rescue but her tight-knit family, an assortment of friends, a bewildered divorce support group, and of course, a gaggle of aunties?
The aunties, particularly, have been met with glowing reviews, says Mohindra.
Like the chorus of muses in “Hercules,” the trio of aunties are spectators who comment on just about everything. They launch each episode with their living room commentary and occasionally show up in Geeta’s life away from the couch.
“Those are my aunties that I grew up with,” Mohindra says. “These women are the anchors in our home and they’re the organizers leading our community. They are such a huge part of my experience of being an American.”
She knew she wanted to integrate the aunties into her show, but their popularity made them into a staple for each episode.
Surprises hit the production off-screen as well. The first actress to play Akua, Geeta’s best friend, moved to Los Angeles. Mohindra’s real mom dropped out of the project saying she no longer wanted to play the role of Geeta’s mother.
“It’s kind of the theme of the show,” jokes Mohindra. “Stuff happens. You have to move on.”
The show is full of cringeworthy moments, like when Geeta gets defensive over meeting her more successful doppelganger or when she overdresses for a date. These relatable – if sometimes silly – moments are when the actress can show off her comic timing.
There are a number of cultural clashes and generational differences, but nothing can break Geeta from the strong relationships in her life, even the imperfect ones.
Mohindra weaves her culture into the story when relevant, but doesn’t make it the target of the comedy. It’s not Geeta’s “otherness” that’s funny, it’s her obsession with keeping her “Indian-classical-dance-hip-hop-fusion” performances private or her overblown insecurity that ruins the family game night.
Much of the humor is also found in Geeta’s heartbreak.
“We’re all kind of sold a fairy tale,” Mohindra says. “It was a big part of my Indian American upbringing, and a big part of why my breakup was so hard.”
She hopes “Geeta’s Guide to Moving On” breaks down the perfect woman myth, lessens the pressure to “have it all” and prompts viewers to define success for themselves.
“The themes of this story are universal,” says Mohindra.
She hopes Geeta will be able to cross cultures, generations and relationship status to captivate an audience.
“Inclusion allows us to show something that’s potentially different and allows us to connect with that,” she says. “That connection fosters empathy, and that empathy is how this story can be revolutionary.”