In her new web series Geeta’s Guide to Moving On, actress Puja Mohindra plays a young woman whose life is thrown abruptly off-course after an unexpected breakup. Once an ambitious, creative dancer her character Geeta emotionally shuts down and moves back into her childhood home with her parents to regroup.
As Mohindra — who has been seen in shows like Chicago Med and All My Children — explains, she was inspired to create the series after going through a life changing breakup. It was while she was in a writers’ group with future Insecure star Issa Rae in Los Angeles that the Illinois-born Mohindra began developing what would become Geeta’s Guide.
We got in touch with Mohindra to talk about what it was like to write a story that so closely reflected her own and got her advice for readers who might currently be dealing with breakups.
The Teal Mango: When we first meet Geeta, she is returning to her childhood home after being unceremoniously dumped just hours before her engagement party. Do you have any advice for readers who may be going through a similar experience?
Puja Mohindra: Yes, I would sum up that advice with a blog post I wrote called, “What I Learned From Loss.” The loss of a relationship and the grief that comes with it can be an excruciatingly painful and solitary-even lonely-experience. My advice is to be gentle with yourself. I recommend finding time for introspection, whether it’s through journaling, yoga, working out, or just solitude.
One way to heal yourself is by healing and helping others. Our suffering is put into context, when we’re given the opportunity to alleviate the suffering of others. Trust the Universe is divine and working for your own good.
It’s valid to take time to heal and get over the loss, but don’t waste time wallowing. Life is joyful, if we choose it. Choose joy.
TTM: This is obviously a comedy, but there were many touching and emotional moments during the pilot. Geeta’s parents take her to a divorce support group (because, as Geeta’s mother points out, there are no broken engagement support groups.) You can tell that they want to help, but are not certain how to do so. How did you decide to create those scenes?
Mohindra: They were drawn and inspired from personal experience.
The show is fictional; my parents never took me a divorce support group. But I did go through a life-defining-but also life-transforming-break up and had to learn to move on from my own grief. During this time, I briefly moved in with my Indian parents.
My Mom and Dad had an arranged marriage and had never suffered through a break-up. Because of this, they struggled to know how to support me, and much hilarity and heartache resulted from their endless attempts to try.
As you can imagine, living together under these circumstances, wackiness ensued. But, it gave me the opportunity to laugh again, and I discovered that even in the darkest moments, there is light, and often, unexpected humor.
This inherent and inevitable conflict between East and West is a source of much comedy and drama, both in my writing and in my life. But, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
TTM: What was it like writing a script that was in many ways so similar to your own story?
My writing practice is about creating original stories that have both comedy and heart, with the intention to help, inspire, and uplift others. For me, writing is an excavation of my own truth. Whatever I create, I try to be honest and authentic, to uncover and reveal the truth.
Writing a script inspired by personal experience feels incredibly vulnerable, like the audience is reading my diary. I understand the risk is I’m opening myself up to judgment.
But the more I do it, the more I discover that I am not alone in my experiences, struggles, insecurities, hopes, losses, or my dreams. I find that others have been through similar or parallel experiences, and in that vulnerability of sharing, there is connection, and in connection, there is strength, a revealing of our common humanity.
In the end, the core values, hopes, and dreams of each and every one us of us transcend color, race, and culture. That is what I love most about stories. Stories foster empathy and connection, and a great one can spark a revolution.
TTM: Many people might not realize this, but when you first moved to Los Angeles, you were in a writing group with ‘Insecure’ star Issa Rae. Is it true that Issa was one of the people who encouraged you to write this script?
Mohindra: Yes, Issa encouraged me to write the script, to produce it independently, and she was very supportive of me leaving LA to create the show in Chicago. Issa and I were in a writers’ group together, towards the end of my time in LA. During that time, she mentored me and my then-writing partners through our first web series, “Friendly Confines.” When that series came to an end, I pitched her the idea for “Geeta’s Guide.”
Issa was the first person to read the first draft of the script and encouraged me to produce it. The thing about Issa is she makes you feel like you can do it, and so you do! She’s an innovator who has so many of her own stories to tell, but she is also fiercely dedicated to elevating the stories of others, especially underrepresented communities and creators.
I feel grateful for her handprints on the show and her influence on my artistic journey. But most of all, I feel grateful for her believing in me and “Geeta’s Guide.”
Issa taught me what it is to embrace one’s authentic voice, to not wait for permission, and to create work outside of the traditional systems and institutions. This project wouldn’t exist without her influence, and the impact she’s had on me.
Click here to watch episodes 1-3 so you can be caught up before episodes 4-12 launch April 25, 2018!