Definition Please is out now on Netflix.

Opsimath: a person who begins to learn, or blooms, late in life. Greek, from opsimathēs. Noun. For Insecure alum Sujata Day, the word is the crux of her feature directorial debut, Definition Please.

The dramedy centers on former fictional Scribbs National Spelling Bee champion Monica Chowdry (Day), now a young adult not quite ready to live up to her potential. She still resides in her hometown with her ailing mother, Jaya (The Good Place's Anna Khaja), making a living as a tutor for future spelling bee champs. When Monica's estranged brother Sonny (Russian Doll's Ritesh Rajan) — a charismatic fitness buff who struggles to address his bipolar disorder — returns to mark the anniversary of their father's death, past traumas and familial conflicts boil to the surface.

"I think of Definition Please as a late-bloomer coming-of-age story," Day tells EW. "You watch a young woman grow from a state of arrested development to moving on to the next phase of her life." 

Definition Please
Sujata Day, Anna Khaja, and Ritesh Rajan in 'Definition Please'
| Credit: Array

The premise for Definition Please, which Day also wrote and produced, pulls from a sketch she penned while at famed comedy club Upright Citizens Brigade in 2015, inspired by her own experiences as a spelling bee aspirant whose ruin came courtesy of the word "radish."

"In fourth grade, I won my class spelling bee and I went on to regionals and lost in the first round on the word 'radish,'" Day recounts. "I spelled it with two Ds instead of one. Obviously, very devastating. I'll remember that moment for the rest of my life."

That experience inspired a script titled "Where Are They Now? Spelling Bee Winners." Citing victors that go on to become NASA scientists or robotic engineers, Day spelled out an alternative path that birthed Definition Please: "a former champ still living in her mother's basement, tutoring kids in town, and smoking weed and having a good time." 

The film is a meditation on family, cultural expectations, and mental health through the lens of a first-generation child of South Asian immigrants — one that infuses fantastical Bollywood fantasy sequences that pay homage to Bengali films and filmmakers, including revered auteur Satyajit Ray and cinematic icons Uttam Kumar and Suchitra Sen. 

Definition Please
Sujata Day and Maya Kapoor in 'Definition Please'
| Credit: Array

"I wanted to normalize and humanize South Asian Americans to Western audiences," Day says.

She cites her love for the Laura Linney-led indies The Savages and You Can Count on Me, as well as works from Mark and Jay Duplass, for sparking her love of independent pictures; however, "When I watch those films, I'm like, 'Why doesn't anyone look like me in these movies?'" Day laments. "So I channeled those beautiful family sibling dramedies to make my own story."

Her story, her "brown girl story," if you will, was also inspired by none other than Insecure costar Issa Rae, who set a precedent while telling her own "Black girl story" on The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl. Day starred as CeCe in the web series, and later, Sarah in Insecure, Rae's colleague at We Got Y'all, an afterschool program for underserved youth.

Definition Please
Ritesh Rajan and Sujata Day in 'Definition Please'
| Credit: June Street Productions

"Working on ABG completely changed the creative direction of my journey," Day says. "We were so inspired by what Issa was doing: putting the web series on her credit card, working really hard, getting it out there, and tapping into this largely ignored audience. I saw that there was another largely ignored audience, which was Asian Americans; and especially, Asian American women." 

Day's time on the series afforded her clarity to amplify her unique point of view as a South Asian American woman. "Once I became focused on that, my scripts became crystal clear," Day says. "My stories became better. My characters were richer. Their relationships to each other made more sense." 

Definition Please is one of two titles from South Asian female filmmakers debuting on Netflix on Jan. 21 from Ava DuVernay's ARRAY. Agam Darshi's directorial debut Donkeyhead, a dramedy centered on similar themes of the familial ties that bind, also premieres on the streamer.

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