Director: Laxman Utekar
Written by: Laxman Utekar and Rohan Shankar
Cinematography: Akash Agrawal
Edited by: Manish Pradhan
Cast: Kriti Sanon, Pankaj Tripathi, Sai Tamhankar, Supriya Pathak and Manoj Pahwa
Streaming on: Netflix and JioCinema
Buried somewhere inside Mimi is a moving story about parenting and what it means to raise and love a child. But before we get here, which is roughly in the last 15 minutes, we have to endure over two hours of a simpering, poorly written dramedy about a 25-year-old woman in Rajasthan, who agrees to become a surrogate mother so that she can fund her dream to become a Bollywood heroine.
Mimi is introduced to us through a dance number. The song begins with the lyrics: Bikaneri chokri, santre ki tokri. An American couple, Summer and John, watch her and decide that a healthy, lithe girl like Mimi would be the perfect vessel to carry their child. Their driver Bhanu brokers the deal. Mimi lies to her parents saying that she is going to shoot a film when, in reality, she moves into the home of her friend Shama. She plans to deliver the baby, take her payment and then move to Mumbai. But at some point, Summer and John get cold feet and abandon Mimi and their child.
Mimi is a remake of the National Award-winning 2011 Marathi film Mala Aai Vahhaychy! It's been adapted in Hindi by director Laxman Utekar, who co-wrote it with Rohan Shankar. Laxman earlier made Luka Chuppi, which also had Kriti Sanon in the lead. I haven't seen the original but Laxman and Rohan construct a screenplay in which the biggest ambition is to cushion the complexities of surrogacy with breezy comedy. Even in emotionally charged situations – like Mimi's parents discovering that their daughter lied to them – there is an attempt at delivering laughs, mainly through the character of Bhanu who goes along with Mimi's lie that he is the father. But for these switches in tonality to be seamless, the writing and performances needed to have much more nuance and depth.
A film that managed to combine thorny issues with a light touch is Jude Anthany Joseph's Sara's, also about a young woman grappling with pregnancy. She goes against the wishes of her family and her husband and decides not to have a baby because she wants to be a filmmaker. In a country in which motherhood is accorded celestial status, this is a tough story to sell but Jude and his leading lady, the superb Anna Ben, make a persuasive argument for a woman making her own choices. By contrast, Mimi sidesteps polarising questions – when Mimi's baby is born, her dreams are abandoned without a debate. In one scene, her mother tells Mimi, 'Devaki bhi tu aur Yashoda bhi tu.'
And here's what I found even more problematic – Mimi delivers a baby boy with fair skin and blue eyes. Which causes crowds to gather outside their house. Bhanu becomes a local star with random men accosting him to ask how he managed to father such a fair child. The grandparents also fall in love instantly. The film is attempting to showcase our color bias but it also bolsters it. Would the family have been as fawning if the child wasn't as beautiful? Or born differently abled as a doctor declares that it might have been? Again, the film doesn't want to go into these darker spaces.
Mimi is content to operate at a simplistic, superficial level. Laxman puts together a roster of terrific actors – Pankaj Tripathi, Supriya Pathak, Manoj Pahwa and Sai Tamhankar – but he doesn't give them enough to do. As usual, Pankaj is the best thing in the film, working hard to infuse more life and layers into Bhanu. But Mimi rests on Kriti's shoulders. She also works hard – putting on weight, working with a Rajasthani accent. In the climax, she is able to summon a wellspring of emotion but largely, her efforts are undermined by the script and her own inability to let go of synthetic Bollywood glamour. Even when Mimi is screaming in pain during childbirth, her lipstick is in place.
Which perfectly sums up the trouble with this film – its lack of believability.
You can watch Mimi on Netflix India and Jio Cinema.