The social drama Mimi, which delivered prematurely on Netflix and Jio Cinemas on July 26, four days before its scheduled release, after pirated prints were released, on Telegram and torrent sites, has raised a lot of interest in surrogacy. The film is about a young dancer from Rajasthan who aspires to be a Bollywood heroine and is lured by the prospect of easy money rents out her womb to a foreign couple. But scared away by the news that the child may be ‘special’ rather than perfect, they fly away to the US, leaving Mimi holding the baby, literally. While Kriti Sanon plays the protagonist, Pankaj Tripathi lends able support as Bhanu Pratap, the cab driver, who gets Mimi into this mess for easy money. Later, Pankaj refused to stir from her side. He even masqueraded as her husband, despite being married himself and is shown that he was ready to move the court for her.
Talking to the actor, you wonder if he knew of any girls like Mimi in real life before signing the film and Pankaj says that while he doesn’t, he had read about them in the newspapers and heard about the IBN7 documentary, Surrogate Maa, which showcases such cases in Anand, a small town in Gujarat which has become the hub of surrogacy and changed the lives of so many women.
“Surrogacy is still a comparatively novel concept and even today, many are clueless about it. In our film, it is only a ghatnakram (sub-plot), but it will educate the common man about the process, which happens under the supervision of a qualified doctor. However, overall, Mimi is about the emotional storm raging both inside and outside the characters,” Pankaj points out.
The film is the official Hindi remake of Samruddhi Porey’s 2011 film, Mala Aai Vhhaychy!, which bagged the National Award for Best Feature Film in Marathi. Has he seen the original? “No, I haven’t. For me sab maulik hai, everything I do is original, and if I see a story or performance, mera mann bhar jata hai (I am satiated), I wonder why I should do it again,” Pankaj shares.
He adds that it reminded him of Bhojpuri playwright Bhikhari Thakur’s Gabarghichor, a wonderful play about a woman, her migrant husband who has been away in Kolkata making a living and the man in the village with whom she had an extra-marital affair and a son. Soon all three are fighting before the panchayat, laying claim to the 15-year-old protagonist till the Panch decides to cut the boy up into three equal pieces and distribute him amongst them. To say what happens next is to give away the film’s climax and the message inherent in it.
Pankaj and Kriti had worked together earlier, in Dilwale, Arjun Patiala, Luka Chuppi and Bareilly Ki Barfi. More recently, they completed Bachchan Pandey. Pankaj describes his frequent co-star as a sincere, hard-working girl who till Bareilly Ki Barfi had only been doing mainstream cinema. “That film showed people that Kriti is capable of much more and now in Mimi she has come up with another kamaal ka performance, striking the right balance between glamour and craft, and come to be recognized as a good actress,” he applauds.
Kriti put on 15 kgs to look believably pregnant. What did his prep entail? “I did absolutely nothing. I reached the set directly from another shooting without any kind of prep whatsoever. But after four days, when we were filming the emotional scenes, I realized this was not as easy as I had presumed. Every character demands something from an actor, Bhanu was no exception. After that I had to get out of my comfort zone aur bahut mehnat karni padi (and I had to work hard),” Pankaj admits.
The National Award-winning actor will be seen next in the Kabir Khan-directed sports drama 83 which recreates India’s World Cup Win. The ICC Men T20 World Cup starts on October 17. Does Pankaj who plays PR Man Singh, the team manager, fancy India’s chances of pulling off another victory, this time not unlikely? “I really can’t comment on this since I don’t follow cricket and have no idea how India is currently doing,” Pankaj concludes.