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Mimi & CKA Aren’t ‘Woke’ Cinema As Claimed But Made Only For The Great Indian Male!

We can’t bombard impressionable young women in the name of enlightened entertainment to feed them the same drivel. At least let us not label misogynist movies as helping the cause of women.

We can’t bombard impressionable young women in the name of enlightened entertainment to feed them the same drivel. At least let us not label misogynist movies as helping the cause of women.

I have watched at least 2 ‘purported’ trailblazing Bollywood movies in the recent past that left me with a feeling that I had taken part in the ice-bucket challenge all over again. This time around, however, without even the satisfaction of having supported a worthy cause.

Both the movies have about a 90% liking rate on IMDB/Rotten Tomatoes. Both are touted to ‘sensitively’ portray the taboo topics that seem to be mostly hidden underneath a layer of banana peels – dangerous to even tread nearby.

The movies have generated quite a buzz especially around the fact that they have tackled hitherto unheard-of topics. One deals with the issue of surrogacy while the other tackles transgenderism. Both stories held a lot of promise and considering the new breed of talented Indian writers, directors, and actors, I was upbeat about watching them.

Mimi – the missed opportunity

The first on the list was Mimi. The internet was abuzz about how good the movie was going to be for women, that it was going to break a lot of barriers and taboos to get the message across that women did not need to be bound by old traditions and were quite capable of taking matters in their own hands. Well, there is no doubt about that and quite frankly it is a simple premise that does not need too much story-telling complication to drive the point across. Somehow, Bollywood seems to think that KISS and tell is not the way to go and so they introduce all these needless complexities. It would be fine if these convolutions add to the story, but unfortunately, they take away more from it, and in the end, it seems like the story went in a tangential direction to what it was the original intention.

Mimi had everything going for it. A great cast in Kirti Sanon and Pankaj Tripathi. The way it starts off, with a 25-year-old ambitious woman who can do almost anything to achieve her dream of making it big, it sure seemed like it was going to be one heck of a ride.  Yes, there were minor irritants like the inevitable aghast parents and a friend from another religion, but there was hope that the bigger picture wouldn’t disappoint. Well, that would be an understatement. The picture at the end leaves the feminist in you so underwhelmed and helpless that you really want to lash out at someone for making you sit through – a fare that far from being anything close to making a case for women’s rights actually makes a mockery of it.

I am not sure when Bollywood is going to stop glamorizing childbirth and treat it as such a monumental event in a woman’s life that she must sacrifice everything at its doorstep. It’s like somehow as soon as a woman gets pregnant,  an extra-terrestrial presence takes over her soul and from then onwards the ET’s only purpose in life is to take the woman away from everything that is good for her and relegate her to this life of ‘nobleness’ where she is expected to keep the kid over everything else – her own life, her dreams, her aspirations – heck, even her freedom to breath. All in the name of the love of a child.

As a mother to 3 kids, so I know what I’m saying

I am a mother of 3 kids myself and I do understand the emotion associated with being a mother and I love my children as dearly as any mother ever. But to ask me to sacrifice my entire life, especially for a child that is technically not even mine, one that I did not even conceive because I was having unprotected sex sets a dangerous precedence.

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We are still relegating a woman to being a ‘Devi’, someone whose sole purpose in life is to give birth and then write off her life to the uptake of these wanted/unwanted kids. Why? Just stop and think for a moment. Why should any woman do that?

I would have loved Mimi if the directors had allowed Mimi to live her life. If she had either aborted the child or given it up for adoption and then went about her way. Instead, Mimi must do the ultimate sacrifice. She must fight like a tigress, slog like a slave, eat like a sick person to bring her child up. Another disturbing part of the ratio was the color of the skin of the kid in question. I wonder if the parents/friends/neighbors would have had the same enthusiasm for the child if his skin was a darker tone. All this in the name of a progressive move meant to support women. Please!

This is a dangerous lesson we are imparting to our girls. No matter how young you are, how many dreams you have, how capable you are, and how bright your future is, if you were to find yourself to be pregnant, then you need to abandon your whole life and dedicate it to bringing up the kid with everything you have so that your parents, your friends, their parents, and their neighbors have a playmate to while their time with. Instead, the message should have been that it is okay for a girl to make wrong choices and decisions but that it is never too late for her to mend those errors. A girl should never feel obligated to give birth to a child merely because society deems it ‘proper’ and ‘noble’ for her. The decision of whether to have a child or not, whether to keep the child or not is up to the parents, and in the case of a single parent, it is up to the parent.

I wish girls were made to understand that there is no nobility in sacrificing one’s life for the sake of age-old customs and traditions. Mimi had a golden choice of driving that concept home but instead, it royally messed it up with over-the-top emotions and simply impractical choices. There’s more to the life of a woman than being a daughter, wife, mother, friend, sister, and BFF. I wish I could see movies celebrating women as normal human beings with strengths and weaknesses instead of trying to fit them into one box or another.

Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui

A more recent watch was Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui and I did not think I would say this, but this seemed even worse than Mimi. At least Mimi had a strong, beautiful, and smart woman as the lead character.

In CKA, the focus is so much on Ayushmann Khurrana – the male lead of the movie, that calling this movie anything else is a joke. Yes, there is that ‘sidetrack’ of a trans woman – that’s right – that is what the apparent USP of the movie is relegated to – a sidetrack to the macho masculinity of the hero. It’s all about Ayushman – his gym, his family, his friends, his dreams – entirely exasperating. I was hoping to see the struggles of this trans woman, but instead, I had to watch Ayushmann stumble trying to move mountains – literally!

We see the heroine doing the same thing that Bollywood heroines do – dress in simple clothes, cry a lot, look beautiful even when they just get up from bed, and my pet peeve – be this ‘perfect woman’ for her man. A woman who knows that her man will start fasting early in the morning and gets up very early after a long night of arduous lovemaking and then proceeds to make his breakfast complete with the right amount of protein, vitamins, and everything possible that he might need for nutrition the whole day. All to hear him say that she is so ‘different’ from all the other girls he has fooled around with. What a compliment!

A dangerous lesson for our girls

Once again, this movie follows the dangerous precedence of Mimi for young girls. The pressure to be different, to be sexy, funny, loving, fit and top it off by being a ‘pativrata bharatiya nari’. No matter what, your worth as a woman seems to be decided by your relationship with a man, and more importantly how he feels about you. If he ticks the appropriate boxes you are the ‘different’ woman whom every man desires. If he does not, then you are part of the same group of women that every man discards. No wonder that girls seem to take everything – even mental and physical abuse from their men – in the guise of being this woman who is different from everyone else and hence chosen by the man.

We need to let this way of thinking become a thing of the past. We can’t bombard impressionable young women in the name of enlightened entertainment to feed them the same drivel. At least let us not label misogynist movies as helping the cause of women. If you want to make a movie that tries to portray women as secondary citizens, then have the guts to own up to that. Don’t hide behind the ruse of making an equalist movie when your intention is to just use toxic masculinity to make some moolah for yourself. Nothing wrong in making that sack of money, but there is something very wrong when you are labeling the bottle as ‘fragrance’ and then putting rat poison in it; and that’s exactly what CKA does.

For a movie that says its heroine is a trans woman, where’s the reality?

You go in to watch the movie thinking you will see Vani struggle with physical, mental, and emotional issues pertaining to her sex change. Well, guess what? The physical struggle is not even mentioned except one place where she boasts in a typical male fashion that if she could get rid of her ‘thing’, she is one of the bravest persons in the world – a Dick being a Dick without a Dick!

It would have been great if the writers could have shown us the day-to-day struggle of how you get used to a new body. There are so many things – periods, breasts, reproduction, etc. Instead, of course, we had to refer to the one part she gets rid of, not the ones she acquires. Oh yes, there is the easy part of getting rid of unwanted hair on her face and legs but that’s about all. Nothing more intimate or messy. Great going already…

We do see a little bit of tussle with Vani’s parents but nothing in-depth really. Instead, we see how Ayushman interacts with his father, grand-father, older sister, younger sister, stepmother, nephew, etc. from his side of the family. Bravo! Instead of showing the struggle of a transgender person, this movie shows the struggle of a man because of a transgender person. Huge difference. Not sure if I am doing to see the difference being erased in my lifetime. Not in mainstream Bollywood Cinema for sure.

If your intention is woke cinema, make it authentic; not for the ‘great Indian male’

There is a trend in Bollywood to embrace bold subjects. No doubt, a welcome trend, but that is where everything seems to stop. I am not sure if it is policy coming from the top, or that the Indian public is still not mature enough – but the subject remains a PR trend to gather attention. Lofty ideas are drawn, huge promises are made, big stars are roped in, and in the end, the movie peters out like a damp squib.

Worse than all those Dharmendra macho movies of yesteryears- at least they did not pretend and draw the hapless viewer in to be sacrificed at the altar of toxic masculinity in the guise of modern feminism!

I long to see a day when Hindi movies accord the same respect and screen time to a female actors as they do with their male actors. I would have loved to see Mimi at least try to realize her dream, for Vani to have had more purpose in life than to rope in a bunch of muscles put together haphazardly.

Instead of the climax of the movie we got, if the child would be taken away from Mimi, it would have been so much better if Mimi had walked towards her dream with zero guilt leaving the child behind. I would have loved to see Vani succeed at her own challenge rather than offer support to Ayushmann to succeed in CKA’s climax. I would have loved discussions about how women are controlled in a wide variety of ways – Bollywood movies being one of them!

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Sofia L

I have been an aspiring writer for a while now. I realize I am happiest when I am either writing or reading. I want to continue that route to happiness by contributing and reading what read more...

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