Mimi. starring Kriti Sannon, recently released on Netflix, is ostensibly a female-centrist film dealing with issues of pregnancy, surrogacy and the rights of a parent but everything about the film reeks of conservatism. Laxman Utekar’s Mimi is problematic to its core and falls flat in its portrayal and representation of women characters and their subjective experiences.
The story of the film is set in Rajasthan where an American couple is in search of a surrogate with Bhanu, (played by Pankaj Tripathi), their driver helping them find a surrogate. Mimi (played by Kriti Senon) a woman who dreams of becoming a Bollywood star one day, is offered twenty lakh rupees by the American couple if she agrees to become the surrogate. The film does in no way take a stand against the dehumanizing and commodifying nature of surrogacy, where a woman is merely reduced to a womb which can be bought and sold commercially. Rather, the film further dehumanizes the female body through the blatant usage of analogies that equate a 'womb' with a 'farm' and a 'foetus' with 'crop' that has to be harvested.
The problematic aspects of the film do not end here. When the American couple abandon
their baby who is yet to be born and when the doctor tells Mimi that many such surrogate
women have chosen abortion as a way out, Mimi’s reply is not just questionable but also
outrageously anti-choice and anti-abortion. Her assertion that the foetus inside the womb is alive and should be accepted and kept alive no matter what, is deeply problematic as it denies the freedom of a woman to make choices and decisions regarding her own body. By
glorifying motherhood and sacrifice over everything else, the film reinforces the idea that a
woman is instinctively maternal and that sacrificing one’s career and dreams for a child is a
thing to be proud of.
Furthermore, the film promotes colorism, leading to the ‘otherization’ of its own people along with the glorification of ‘white skin’. The child, who is born, is treated like a spectacle because of his white skin and Mimi and Bhanu are considered lucky to have a child who is so ‘fair’. To add to that, the film is outrightly insensitive to the issues of disabilities. The American couple abandon the yet to be born child because it is diagnosed that the child will be born with Down Syndrome. And yet, when the child is born, he is shown to be healthy with no disabilities. The film is dismissive of disabilities and considers them to be a ‘fault’ and something to be disapproved of. The film therefore becomes ableist in its language and in its treatment of the question of disabilities.
To add to that, the film merely uses surrogacy as a trope to take the story ahead. There is little in the film that presents the subjectivity of the women characters and their lives. The stories of the lives of countless women who are forced to become surrogates in order to survive and earn livelihood, who are bought and sold like commodities is completely sidelined in favor of an unrealistic story about a middle-class woman wanting to become a Bollywood star and becoming a surrogate to raise money to go to Mumbai. Furthermore, by trying to build comedy around sensitive issues that adversely affect the real lives of countless people, the film becomes an aimless prattle that rings hollow.
The film is a project of otherization wherein female bodies are commodified and women’s
identities, concerns and choices are veiled under the cloak of glorification of motherhood.
Moreover, the film alienates and otherizes its own audience by unabashedly promoting
colorism. To add to this, the film otherizes Muslims and stereotypes them through characters who make an inter-faith marriage between a Muslim and a Hindu unthinkable. On the whole, Mimi propagates and reinforces the same stereotypes, prejudices and conservatism that it ostensibly pretends to shun. The film is replete with gross sentimentalism that gives off the stench of staleness mingled with misogyny and characterized by a colonial hangover.