“No matter what
people’s age, ethnicity,
sexuality, race is …
create your own work so that
you can have the opportunity
to do things that you love.”
Chicago’s Puja Mohindra writes and directs her own role in the popular web series, Geeta’s Guide to Moving On. In her semi-autobiographical comedy, Mohindra plays Geeta, the “lovable, imperfect, all-American brown girl” who is forced to face a dramatic breakup and the family drama it entails.
Having starred in more than 40 movies and television shows, including her role as Dr. Heather Singh in Chicago Med, Mohindra has been an acting force in the Chicago and LA film industries for quite some time.
However, she states, “What happens for actors is that you kind of get put into boxes early on.”
Although widely recognized in the Chicago community for her roles in Chicago Med and other network dramas, Mohindra has a deep passion for comedy.
“I’ve always loved comedy. Growing up, my mom used to do community theater … and I was completely raised on American sitcom.”
That love of comedy helped her take the initiative to create the lead role she dreamed of playing, an Indian American experiencing a gut-wrenching breakup.
GEETA’S GUIDE TO MOVING ON TRAILER
The web series started as three episodes, but it grew to a dozen when OTV (previously Open TV) came on board for distribution.
According to its website, “OTV experiments with alternative ways to develop, produce, and exhibit art and television. Our programs center artistic expression, intersectionality, Chicago, and digital networking.”
OTV SUPER TRAILER 2017-18
With the support of OTV, Mohindra directed episodes 4 through 12.
Mohindra says that her acting experience informs her writing and directing style.
“I understand the tools that I would need as an actor to build a scene, and I just use those same tools… the stake, objective, obstacle – all of those kind of core things that actors use.”
She is also committed to being a voice for Asian American woman in the Chicago film and television community.
Still, while diversity and accurate portrayals of American demographics are very important to her, Mohindra also emphasizes, “Being an artist is difficult no matter what. No matter what your ethnicity or gender is, it is really, really difficult.”
For other actors, artists, and performers struggling to find the roles they deserve, Mohindra advises, “No matter what people’s age, ethnicity, sexuality, race is… create your own work so that you can have the opportunity to do things that you love.”
While the lead character of Geeta provides Mohindra with an opportunity to shine, Geeta’s Guide to Moving On is filled with other impressive performances as well.
One of the most memorable is the comedic trio of Geeta’s “aunties,” played by Padmi Divekar, Mangala Gadkari, and Asha Hira.
After casting for a period of time, Mohindra chose family friends to play the aunties. “None of them have really acted for the camera before,” attests Mohindra.
Throughout the series, the camera cuts to the trio of aunties on a couch, where they dish out an adorable mix of clueless and insightful commentary.
Their performances are hilarious — a testament to Mohindra’s directing skills and ability to portray underrepresented American women.
DIVORCE SUPPORT GEETA’S GUIDE TO MOVING ON, EP. 1
The aunties are just one of the many devices Mohindra uses to emphasize that Geeta’s family and friends experience the breakup in their own ways.
Mohindra credits actress, filmmaker, and fellow web-series wiz Issa Rae for the attention given to Geeta’s family. According to Mohindra, her and Rae met while they “were in a writer/creator group for artists of color in Los Angeles.”
Rae served as both an inspiration and a source of feedback during Geeta’s Guide’s early stages of development.
Besides Rae, Mohindra cites other “multi-hyphenates” as key inspirations, including writer / actor / producers Donald Glover, Aziz Ansari, Louis C.K. (“sexual harassment aside” says Mohindra), and Jordan Peele, along with actor / producers Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman.
Mohindra emphasizes that more actors need to step outside the confines of having an acting only career.
As for Geeta’s Guide to Moving On, her “dream for it would be to produce it as a network show in Chicago.”
To watch Season One of Geeta’s Guide to Moving On, click here.
Contact Joey Filer at Joey@reelchicago.com or follow him on Twitter @FilerJoey.