Surrogacy – Ethical, emotional, legal and commercial implications
One of the first articles I wrote on Women’s Web on legal updates affecting women was on surrogacy. The year was 2016. The draft Bill banning commercial surrogacy had just been passed. Banning is always easier than regulation. This was my view in the article as well.
But should the government not try to regulate the industry instead and address proper implementation of surrogacy laws? The fact that foreign couples and Indian homosexual couples / single parents would be denied surrogacy is even more discriminatory and confusing.
Speaking of exploitation, how many women in the country, poor or rich alike are married with the sole purpose of bearing a child? Everybody tells a man to find a ‘nice girl’, and settle down to start a family. At times, the same wife goes through multiple childbirths in an attempt to bear a male child, her consent being nobody’s concern.
Oh the zeal of a young writer! I had a lot of spark then. I was very clear in my thoughts. My confidence was shaken as I read a comment from a woman. She had written that sex and pregnancy put women in vulnerable situations, and that I should think from the point of view of what a woman would go through giving birth to a child she cannot keep. I had immediately felt ashamed of myself.
Was I speaking from a place of privilege?
I cannot imagine what it would be like to carry someone else’s child for money. But I can also not imagine what it would be like to be so in need of money that one would actually go through something like this. What if you have no money to feed your kids?
Mimi: Low on Research, High on emotion
The writers of the movie have been too lazy to research the laws. Commercial surrogacy is banned in India. As per law, a surrogate should be married and should have a child of her own. Foreign couples are not allowed to opt for surrogacy in India. Overlooking all of this, here is the story:
A foreign couple approaches a young and pretty girl, Mimi, an aspiring actress to be their surrogate. She is introduced to them by a driver, Pankaj Tripathi. After the initial shock, Mimi goes ahead with the idea because she wants to go to Mumbai with the money she receives in return. Her parents are not aware of any of this. But Mimi is in for a rude shock when the foreign couple abandons their baby, once they get to know that the baby may not be ‘normal’.
What will our poor Mimi do now? She is a bin byahi Maa with a white baby in her womb!
In one of the scenes, Mimi asks her doctor about stretch marks. As someone who wants to go to Bollywood, it is understandable that she would be concerned about her figure post pregnancy and childbirth.
“Shilpa Shetty ka figure kharaab hua kya?” The doctor responds, strangely.
Yes, doctor. Shilpa Shetty represents all Indian women! There are other such bizarre scenes in the movie where the tough questions are just brushed off to make everything look easy.
Pankaj Tripathi is flawless as usual. Supriya Pathak proves yet again she is an insanely gifted actress. There is a part in the movie where Pankaj Tripathi is mistaken for Mimi’s husband. Supriya Pathak and Manoj Pahwa’s expressions for their disappointment in their jamai provided much comic relief.
Kriti Sanon has tried hard but she is not a natural actress. Her accent was horrible. Luckily for her, she is very easy on the eyes. Her face in almost perfect and so is her body.
The bad reviews
Most reviews have ripped the movie apart. Especially all feminist platforms. So much that I felt guilty for liking the movie!! But as always, I will stay honest to my views.
What critics say – Poorly researched. What I say:
I agree that the makers have not done research on the law. But this was not a documentary. It was a movie. On Netflix. During the pandemic. You know and I know that we watch any new movie that is released on OTT because theatres are not open yet and there is no office and there is nothing better to do.
So yes, by those standards the movie was okay for a one time watch.
What critics say – Insensitive and racist. What I say:
People have complained that the baby was referred to as ‘disabled’. It may be insensitive but that is how people talk. It does not matter because the movie had a nice message and it was pro acceptance. People have also complained that the ‘white’ baby was followed everywhere and this was racist.
It reminded me of my childhood days in Patna. I was very little maybe in fourth, fifth grade. A white lady had got her daughter admitted in Kindergarten. This was something very exciting for us as there were no foreigners in our school. She used to come to pick up and drop her kid every day. The lady was so beautiful. At least I remember her as very beautiful. It may be possible that she was not beautiful, but just white and wore different clothes from the rest of the mothers who wore saris and salwar suits. We were too little and found her pretty because she looked so different. So white, and so modern!! AS if right out of a Fairytale. We used to follow her! One day I spoke to her and asked her is she was from ‘America?’
Coming back to Mimi, I won’t call it racism if a pretty looking kid is followed around in a small town. It is more of curiosity and attraction to something exquisite.
What critics say – Patriarchal. What I say:
Critics have said that Mimi gave up her dreams for the baby and the movie glorified motherhood and Mimi as the ever scarifying Maa who has no life of her own. I disagree. She got into an unwanted situation and dealt with it. Were their enough people to raise her baby? Sure! What with the doting grandparents and even the driver’s family ready to give up everything for the baby!
But it’s okay that she decided to stay for the baby. She fell in love with the baby, probably. Women fall in love with the wrong men, and ruin themselves all the time! Why not for a baby! She could still become an actress. Who said an actress has to be 25 years old only, my fellow feminist writers? She could become something else too. In the two hours that they had, the makers had a different plot and objective.
Women empowerment means different things at different points in life. Maybe sometimes just hanging in a tough situation, accepting it, staying strong and not running away is as empowered as a woman can be.
Who is a mother anyway?
The one who gives birth? The one whose genes it is? Or the one who raises the child?
Devaki bhi tum yo, Yashodha bhi, says Mimi’s mother.
The movie had a beautiful message about adoption at the end. All in all, it was meant to be a movie that will make you laugh and cry.
The boredom of the pandemic and my strong views in favour of adoption and non obsession with ‘apna khoon’ made me like the movie. Do share your views in the comments.