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What Makes A Parent? What Is Family? Film Mimi Addresses Deep Questions In A Fun Way

An engaging entertainer, Mimi offers humor, social commentary and humane storytelling in a well written, reasonably-paced package. *spoiler free  Mimi, the latest big ticket offering on Netflix, is a remake of the well-received 2010 Marathi film, Mala Aai Vahhaychy! Given that Bollywood remakes of smaller budget but beautifully crafted Marathi films have struck a jarring […]

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An engaging entertainer, Mimi offers humor, social commentary and humane storytelling in a well written, reasonably-paced package.

*spoiler free 

Mimi, the latest big ticket offering on Netflix, is a remake of the well-received 2010 Marathi film, Mala Aai Vahhaychy! Given that Bollywood remakes of smaller budget but beautifully crafted Marathi films have struck a jarring note in the past, I watched with low expectations and a leery eye.

Mimi, to my pleasant surprise, delivers (no pun intended!)

The storyline that now most of us know

The story revolves around a 25-year-old dancer who aspires to collect enough money to make it to Mumbai. Short on funds but not on confidence, she believes it is only a matter of time before her star will rise. There is only that small matter of some lakhs of rupees needed for the photoshoot and music video that will propel her to Bollywood stardom. In the meantime, she dances for the Rajasthan tourism industry.

It is here that a white couple from the United States spots her, along with their local chauffer, essayed by the brilliant Pankaj Tripathi. The couple is looking for a healthy surrogate mother for their baby, Mimi is looking for a way to fund her B-town dreams, and Bhanu, Tripathi’s character, dazzled by the amount offered as a go-between, is tasked with the job of negotiating the deal.

Cut to an excited Mimi, who, without considering the social, emotional, physical and legal consequences of her decision, jumps in with both feet. Mithai all around! Except, jumping in with both feet is all very well, until you realize you’re in over your head. The narrative seldom flags, taking viewers on twists in the script, and the characters’ individual and collective journeys.

A well crafted social commentary

Despite bringing together several serious issues—surrogacy, medical tourism, developmental disability, and parent rights—the film does not veer into preachy territory. Large part comedy, with several moments of high-octane Bollywood-style drama, it remains an entertainer while offering food for thought. Kriti Sanon as Mimi does feisty well. While this isn’t her first role as the generic North Indian girl with a sharp tongue and attitude to match, she brings a gravitas to the role as the storyline progresses and evolves her character with ease and maturity.

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She is ably assisted by a stellar cast of co-actors in Tripathi (who is a treat to watch, with the best lines and comedic moments), Sai Tamhankar as her faithful friend Shama, and Supriya Pathak and Manoj Pahwa as her mortified, aghast and supportive parents. Even the American couple is mercifully not one-dimensional, although there are moments in the film when one bristles at white privilege and our pre-programmed colonial responses. Every character feels like a real person with their own arc, rather than a caricature, and this is one of the movie’s strengths.

While also being entertaining

Also to be noted are the moments of patriarchy, sexism and colorism, seamlessly woven into the script without a foghorn, lest we think Shekhawati is miraculously peopled with prejudice-free residents. If you want an out-and-out social documentary, delving deep into the ramifications of women’s bodies for hire, this is not it. It is first and foremost an entertainer, and to its credit, makes no pretense of being otherwise. Its uniqueness lies in subverting some stereotypes and making the characters’ growth believable.

Like when Bhanu’s storyline journeys from calling surrogacy candidates “maal” to being a vocal supporter of Mimi’s rights as he witnesses her humanness. All the while, it remains a comedy of errors that makes you guffaw even as deep questions such as “What makes a parent?”, “Who makes a family”, and “Does it really take a village?” are asked and answered.

While the film could have done with slightly less drama and crisper editing, at no point is it a drag. The ending is a bit trite, but even that doesn’t miss an opportunity to shed light on yet another social issue—adoption. Even as the film wraps up in expected ways, one can’t help rooting for Mimi and her delightful, if unusual, extended family that draws the viewer right into their midst. The formula for a successful film in my book is one that puts me through a gamut of emotions and makes me think and question beyond its runtime. On both counts, Mimi emerges as a winner, and a film I would recommend.

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