Ever wonder what it’s like to be an Indian girl living in a small town, zipping around with your best friend, trying to find a Plan B pill that no one in any of the nearby pharmacies is willing to provide to you?
You haven’t? Well, you should, and then have that wonder appeased by Hulu’s newest release, the Natalie Morales directed “Plan B.”
“Plan B” tells the story of Sunny, played by Kuhoo Verma, a straight-laced Indian-American teenager who decides that she wants to lose her virginity at an ill-conceived house party. The night ends in a regrettable encounter that goes sideways the next morning, forcing her and her best friend, Lupe (played by Victoria Moroles), to race through their small town and beyond, trying to find a Plan B pill in 24 hours so that she doesn’t end up pregnant and bring shame to her family (or some other stereotypical Indian expression of grief).
The film is stark yet ever-so subtle with its messaging on the treatment of minority communities in the Midwest. No one’s going to shame you for being different, but you’ll be seen (and see yourself) with a different lens regardless. But it’s not just about being a minority, it’s also about the follies of youth and gender bias.
Someone who grasps this sentiment quite well is Prathi Srinivasan, one of the film’s co-writers. Together with frequent writing partner Joshua Levy (who she’s also collaborated with on shows like “Bollyweird” and “iZombie”), Srinivasan knew that their experiences growing up were not necessarily unique, which birthed the film’s central idea. “I was born in India, then moved to Iowa, then moved to Texas. I’ve only ever known conservative backgrounds,” she tells SEEMA.
In a meeting with the producers of “Harold and Kumar,” Srinivasan was able to pitch her story by talking about how women lacked the rights to filibuster their own bodies. “What happens if the American Dream isn’t White Castle, the American Dream is the Plan B pill?” she says. “It’s not even an abortive, it’s literally just the morning after pill. It’s just birth control.” The pitch stuck and they were able to get the producers on board and eventual backing from Hulu.
What helped was Srinivasan and Levy’s emphasis on maintaining a sense of realism in the film — aka, everything you see happen is something that could happen to you. That manifests in ways both daunting and hilarious.
One of the most notable bits of the film is the mention of the “Indian mafia,” the channel of information transfer that perpetuates between Indians who live in the United States, at least in this case. It’s borne out of the whole “nosy neighbor” trope, but proves to be more realistic than you’d think.
“Everyone knows each other, it’s just ridiculous. I absolutely had that sensation,” Srinivasan says. “I had a neighbor who once called my mother and went, ‘Oh, Prathi came home with a boy.’ It was my male friend, I had helped him pick out a corsage for his prom date, who was not me. He was just a friend of mine, and I hugged him goodbye and went into my house when I was in high school. And the neighbor called.”
But the film hits much harder when you realize that everything Sunny and Lupe go through in their day-long quest for the pill is burdened by rules that exist in our world today, ones that effectively police the exercise of safe sexual health, from consciousness clauses in pharmacies to erratic Planned Parenthood hours.
“People should realize, coming out of the film,” Srinivasan says “that yes, this is a fun comedy. Yes, it’s a hell of a romp. But it’s not far-fetched at all. This is actually weirdly quite realistic, the lengths that they have to go to just to get a Plan B pill.”
“And if it’s that hard to get a Plan B pill, how much harder is it going to be to do anything else with your body? To take care of yourself if something should arise in your life?”
Several recent high school-driven films have sought to use their raunchiness and flashy house parties to tell more intriguing stories of people and their individual experiences, affected by their circumstances and insecurities. The stories of Lupe, and especially Sunny, are no different, something which “Plan B” achieves without beating you over the head with it.
“It is an R-rated comedy. And we’re not reinventing the wheel by any means,” Srinivasan adds. “But it has people, and it has a perspective. And it has a location that isn’t really celebrated or really spotlighted. I think that’s, for me, the agenda, if you will, of this whole movie.”
“Plan B” is now streaming on Hulu