There is a worrisome trend, not just in India but around the world, that has conservatives trying to roll back women’s rights—what they wear, who they marry, how many children they can have, or whether they can have children at all, is being dictated by regressive males (and some clueless females).
So, instead of a film that talks of women’s reproductive rights, we have Mimi, that goes on to glorify the sacrificing mother. A remake of Laxman Utekar’s own Marathi film Mala Aai Vhaychay, with better production values and equal melodrama, it has a young woman set aside her dreams—unrealistic though they may be—becoming a surrogate for American couple, looking for a “young and healthy” woman to bear their child.
Mimi (Kriti Sanon), a hotel folk dancer in Bikaner, wants to become a movie star, but does not have the funds even for a professional photo shoot. So when a tourist taxi driver, Bhanu (Pankaj Tripathi), brings her a womb-for-hire offer, she is tempted by the money Summer (Evelyn Edwards) and John (Aidan Whytock) are willing to pay.
Once convinced that she will not have to prostitute herself, and not lose her svelte figure, she goes through the IVF process, hiding out in a burqa in her Muslim friend Shama’s (Sai Tamhankar) home, telling her gullible parents (Supriya Pathak-Manoj Pahwa) that she is shooting a movie.
At a date much later than medically mandated, the doctor tells her the child may be born with Down’s Syndrome, and advises termination. Mimi has a sanctimonious pro-life monologue and she refuses to consider abortion, even when the American couple abandons her, because they don’t want the burden of a “disabled” child. (Americans bad, Indians good!)
The film goes for weak humour when Mimi returns home, and points to Bhanu as the father of her baby. The driver, yearning for a child himself, goes along with the charade. In a tasteless scene, Mimi’s parents let out a loud lament when they think Bhanu is a Muslim. Shama has no reaction to this blatant Islamophobia— she is the equivalent of the token Muslim, Rahim chacha character in older Bollywood films.
Surrogacy has thrown up ethical and social concerns – a few documentaries like Addicted To Surrogacy and Google Baby—have taken a more serious look at the issues involved that are too complex for the writers and director to understand and express, so they go with the old ‘child gives birth to mother’ chestnut.
Kriti Sanon (dressed in designer ethnic chic), must have thought that a female-centric film would be good for her career, but she brings nothing to it except enthusiasm and glamour. If it weren’t for Pankaj Tripathi expertly shouldering the comic as well as emotional scenes, Mimi would have been quite unwatchable. If you missed the credits, you wouldn’t believe the insipid music was by A.R. Rahman.