Over the past few years, stories from the Hindi heartland have started to become a staple of the Hindi film industry which is unsurprising considering it makes up the majority of the film-viewing population. However, what is fascinating is the fact that over time these films have found their own tropes which are brought to useful effect ever so often. These include having an ‘issue’ at the core which is inevitably a social taboo (live-in relationships in Lukka Chuppi, a cross-dresser in Dream Girl) which means that instead of a story or character driving the film, it is this issue that first comes into the picture and everything else in the film’s universe is dictated by the needs of resolving that issue. And of course, the other such trope is having Pankaj Tripathi.
What director Laxman Utekar somehow manages to add to this in Mimi (whose ‘issue’ is surrogacy) is having music by AR Rahman. Seems like a longshot considering it is not the kind of film, or world, that one would generally associate with him and even while watching the film there is barely a point when one feels that he is the one behind the music except for that one instance when his voice hits you in the ear in Rihaayi De and you realise that it wasn’t a prank after all. That Rahman is really the one doing the music and the score but it just doesn’t feel right.
So, the film, adapted from the National Award-winning Marathi original, Mala Aai Vhhaychy!, is about an American couple (played by Evelyn Edwards and Aidan Whytock) looking for a surrogate in India. While Bhanu (Pankaj Tripathi), their driver comes to the rescue and introduces them to Mimi (Kriti Sanon), a dancer who from Shekhawati, Rajasthan, who wants to go to Bombay to become a heroine, who agrees to take the job but things go wrong and she is stuck with the baby. And, trust me this is not a spoiler, if you’ve watched the trailer you already know way more about the film!
Something that came as a surprise, a positive one at that, was that there was no stereotyping of the protagonist’s line of work. Generally, a dancer is a highly sexualised character in a film, especially when its a woman, but it was nice to see the makers choosing to go against it for a change. Even the other characters are not too judgemental about her job or her dreams of becoming an actress which becomes a point of conflict in many films.
And, there are moments in the film when you feel that everything is falling in place, the humour is working out, all actors have got hold of their characters and the story is working out but these moments are few and far in between. One of my favourite moments from the film is when John is asked to deposit his sperm and in his quintessential, innocent style, Pankaj Tripathi goes, “Sir, if you need any help, call me.” These are some moments that shine in what is otherwise a dull affair.
The background music seems more of a tool that is supposed to give the audiences a cue on how they are supposed to react to different situations or is merely used as a cover-up for bad acting. There are scenes, like Mimi convincing her parents that she has got a film offer and will be out of town for nine months, which seem too longish and at times even irrelevant. Songs like Sabse Bada Rupaiyya play on the car radio right after Mimi is offered 20 lakh rupees to become a surrogate mother, which makes the film seem all the more staged.
The inconsistency in the Rajasthani dialect mar what could have been a great acting performance by Kriti Sanon as Mimi, with all the weight transformations that have been talked about so much. While Pankaj Tripathi does a decent enough job from what he is offered but there isn’t enough help offered from the script for him to build on. Similar is the problem faced by veteran actors, Manoj Pahwa and Supriya Pathak, who play Mimi’s parents.
But still, Utekar manages to build the film up to the climax from where it all completely goes downhill with the makers being confused as to what was the film they actually set out to make and where they should end it. And just a side note, if you have watched the trailer then it is just this climax that you do not know about, otherwise, you’ve basically seen the entire film already.
And, with a somewhat problematic take on abortion laws and a woman’s authority over her own body, Mimi provides a more emotional and romanticised depiction of these issues but avoids delving deeper into these matters. What comes as a result is a confused film that never really takes off.