Director: Laxman Utekar

Cast: Kriti Sanon, Pankaj Tripathi, Sai Tamhankar, Manoj Pahwa, Supriya Pathak

Language: Hindi

Release Date: July 26, 2021

Duration: 2h 12min

Some days, it feels as though film industries (Bollywood in this case) are running out of new stories and concepts to explore, choosing instead to regurgitate the same formulas again and again. But a film comes out once in a while to completely disprove this myth of an ‘uncreative Bollywood’. ‘Pad Man’ discussed menstrual health in 2018, last year ‘Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan’ looked at gay marriage in India, and this year, ‘Sherni’ shed light on the human-wildlife conflicts that occur due to dry seasons. ‘Mimi’ is another such film which takes an underlooked topic in Indian cinema and turns it into easily consumable entertainment for the masses: the modern technology of surrogacy and the many complications and concerns that may arise from it.

Kriti Sanon plays Mimi Rathore, the vivacious and beautiful local dancer living in Rajasthan. She leads an economically modest life with her parents and grandmother (father is a music veteran who teaches music to children), and she has dreams to go to Mumbai and become a film star. Posters of Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone and Kareena Kapoor cover her bedroom walls. Mimi dances at tourist-frequented hotels to the singing of her best friend and vocalist, Shama (essayed by Sai Tamhankar) but barely makes enough money to fuel her movie dreams. Pankaj Tripathi plays Bhanupratap Pandey, a cab driver who is tasked with driving around a white American couple on their India trip. The couple are Summer and John, who cannot conceive a child and so they are looking for someone in India to be the surrogate mother. Mimi and Bhanu’s paths cross in Jaipur while Bhanu is with his tourist clients. This leads to an unlikely transaction, a new friendship, and many, many, many confusions, mishaps and farcical situations.

We get a scene-stealing performance from Pankaj Tripathi as well as a strong lead performance by Kriti Sanon. The entire cast shares natural chemistry with each other. And it is commendable that director Utekar takes his time in prioritizing the side characters by including their reaction shots to all the drama that goes on in front of them. There are some genuinely hilarious moments (especially involving Tripathi as Bhanu) and some thought-provoking scenes and dialogues too. Sometimes the film is breezy and light, and other times the film is intense and disturbing. It is an achievement for the movie to maintain such a balance between these polar moods and never seem too jarring.

‘Mimi’, however, is far from a perfect film and has its fair share of flaws. For example, there are unneeded song & dance breaks, and cutting them out of the final film would have significantly reduced the overall runtime which currently falls over two hours.

However, this is not an unforgivable factor as some people do not mind watching lengthy films. But there IS an unavoidable problem in ‘Mimi’ (which is felt more in the second half of the film), and it is the heavy reliance on dramatic background score. Nearing the climax, there is a constant stream of tiringly pervasive music that attempts to give the audience cues to feel a certain emotion. But this was not needed as the writing and performances by the actors were enough to carry the emotional scenes on their own. There are also questionable choices made in the ‘farcical scenes’ such as when a female character slaps an innocent man (two men on two different occasions) upon hearing shockingly unswallowable news, with the gag being, of course, the striking of a man’s face.

‘Assault as humour’ is fast becoming a tired trope in Indian films and I request that we get rid of this gag totally as it is distasteful, and more likely than not, it won’t come off as funny. Also, there is sometimes over-the-top acting from Supriya Pathak (as Mimi’s traditional mother Shobha) such as when she dramatically faints upon hearing that her daughter has married a Muslim. These gags feel like they come from the 90s. I personally also wish to have seen Mimi deal with the death of her Bollywood aspirations after certain tragedies happen, but she seems to have moved on from them quite swiftly. Also, the issue of colourism which rises when the baby comes out pale as snow is sidetracked with a throwaway gag when it would have been interesting to explore that.

Regardless, ‘Mimi’ makes for a largely entertaining film that takes its time to map a detailed portrait of the many colorful and diverse characters throughout the film, giving each one a little backstory, which shows us that the writers truly value each person and their struggles in life. Evelyn Edwards – who plays Summer, the American wife who cannot conceive – looks like the veteran actress Gillian Anderson and serves us a heart-aching performance. The pain in her eyes and the movements of her mouth when she cries upon hearing some painful news will probably render you teary-eyed. Another saving grace is the unexpectedly delightful twist towards the end that nudges certain characters into considering an alternative approach to having children, apart from surrogacy, that will make you smile.

The film has a big heart with a family and community-affirming message that stresses the importance of the joint family (or joint families) in healthily raising a child. We see the initially perceived ‘conservative’ characters (such as Mimi’s father) breaking stereotypes and embracing differences over the course of the film, which is heartwarming to see. We see families of different backgrounds come together to help each other.

There is a point when the topic of abortion comes up, and judging by the lead heroine’s reaction, we think the film adopts a more pro-life stance. Disappointingly, the film shies away from getting into more sensitive and polarizing territories such as inquiring the subject of abortion and disorders more deeply, settling instead for a reliable feel good, but imperfect, family entertainer. ‘Mimi’ is a strangely dynamic film which confronts taboos, and retreats into comfortable territory, all at the same time.

‘Mimi’ is now streaming on Netflix.

Also read: New Songs Saturday: A look at this week’s music releases

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