After appearing in over a dozen films since her debut in 2014, Kriti Sanon will be seen as the solo lead in Mimi, where she plays a Mandawa-based young woman averse to children, who agrees to be a surrogate mother but gets abandoned by the couple. From the trailer, it seems like the story where a woman turns pregnant in the midst of an affair only to get abandoned by her partner who evades commitment. Just that here, there is no partner and the lens is that of surrogacy.
In an exclusive interview, Sanon discusses the leap she has taken as an actor in Mimi, collaborating again with Luka Chuppi director Laxman Utekar, and returning to the small-town template after her breakthrough Bareilly Ki Barfi.
Edited excerpts below:
You made your debut seven years ago with Heropanti. You have been playing the quintessential heroine since then but will finally be seen as the titular character in Mimi. What sparks did Laxman Utekar see in you while working on Luka Chuppi that he decided to cast you as the solo lead?
I think that will be best answered by Laxman sir. From what he's told me, Luka Chuppi is a very lighthearted film; there's only one emotional scene in the film, on the terrace when she's feeling suffocated because she's lying to the family. When he saw me perform that, he saw a lot more depth in me than what he's seen in the rest of the film. I think that's when he saw me as Mimi.
Having said that, I was craving to do a film like Mimi where I had a lot more to do, where I felt challenged as an actor. I was looking for something I could dig my teeth deeper into, something which was a little more intense but at the same time very entertaining. When I heard the one-liner of Mimi, I felt it had a lot of heart and soul, but is also very entertaining. It felt like the perfect film I'd like to lead as my first time.
With due respect to your male co-stars, how liberating was it to shoot a film without the crutch of a male lead?
I don't think having a male lead is suffocating that you feel liberated without them (laughs). I love shooting with all my male co-actors. I look at every film as mine so there's no difference there. But there's a lot more responsibility when you're in every frame of the film. You then take it up as a challenge, and realise the fact that someone has bet their money on you thinking that you'd be able to carry it on your shoulders.
I feel like a role like this is liberating as an actor. It helps you explore many more emotions than what you get to do in other films with less screen time. Mimi is a chirpy, quirky character whose life turns around later. There's so much graph to her character. That is liberating as an actor for me.
Kriti Sanon in Mimi
Mimi mines its humour from the awareness divide on the concept of surrogacy. How did you unlearn your knowledge of surrogacy, and was there anything new about the process you learnt on the job?
Honestly, it's not a film that preaches surrogacy. It's not an educative film. It's an entertaining film about a girl who ends up becoming a surrogate mother. When she gets to know about surrogacy, that's also what the audience will get to know. Surrogacy is only the backdrop, not the main plot point.
I did get to learn a lot of rules and regulations we have around surrogacy. For example, Mimi is based many years ago when foreign couples were allowed to come in and have a surrogate mother here. It's based on a true incident that happened when a foreign couple left the child in the surrogate womb and vanished. After that, the law became stricter. Now, foreigners aren't allowed to have a surrogate here.
Motherhood in a way is about making sacrifices for a child and then letting that child go eventually. Since that journey is very quick and nascent for a surrogate mother, do you think it also cuts deeper?
Normally, a mother is ready to be a mother. But that's not the case with Mimi. She's the girl who'd laugh at the child whining in front of her. When motherhood happens to her, how does that change her? I'm not at the liberty to reveal much. The trailer has already given out a lot of information but there's still a lot left to be explored.
You gained 15 kg to ensure the effects of a pregnancy are visible on your face. Not many Indian actors have done that in the past. Their transitions have been mostly limited to inserting a prosthetic belly, or even a basketball. Why did you feel the need to go the extra mile?
Even I've used a prosthetic belly. I just haven't become pregnant. I haven't gone that extra a mile (laughs). Apart from that, Laxman sir told me, "I want to see your face and know you're pregnant." The change that every mother goes through doesn't come just in your stomach. It also appears in your arms, your face. Mimi wears clothes that cover her so I don't see her body so much. He said when he puts a close-up, he wants to see the change on my face. The audience would connect with me only if they see and believe I'm pregnant.
I felt it'd need that extra effort from my side because I wanted to see the change in her from the first half to the second half. It was the power of Mimi's journey that I had to take in. Of course, it wasn't easy. Especially because I have a high metabolism so gaining weight was challenging. Secondly, you can't take other projects since you can't lose weight for those. But I feel gaining that weight has made a difference. When you see the film, you'll realise that.
When you acted in Bareilly Ki Barfi (2017), you said you felt nervous being surrounded by stalwarts like Seema Pahwa and Pankaj Tripathi. You continue to be surrounded by Tripathi, Supriya Pathak, and Manoj Pahwa in Mimi. Over these four years, has holding your own become easier?
Yes, you can say that. Also, Bareilly Ki Barfi was the first film outside of my comfort zone. I was suddenly surrounded by these great actors who are very real. I was fairly new at that point. Once you do something like that, you realise that you can do this, you like performing in this world, and you like feeding off actors and are able to give something to them. I have gotten more confident with my craft and process. I am more comfortable with the idea of growing as an actor. These actors contribute to your performance. And the give-and-take between actors becomes so real with them.
Your director said AR Rahman's music took the film to another level. How do you think his music complements an actor's performance?
When I heard the script of the film, I felt its heart was in the right place. Rahman sir's music has added a lot of soul to the film. Background music can make or break a scene. It can uplift or dim your performance. He doesn't make music to make it what we call commercial. His music comes from his heart. It flows with the emotions of the characters. When you watch the film, you'll realise that the sound goes with what you see on screen. It's not used to make a 'hit' song. Of course, he's a legend. I just feel blessed he came onboard because he's made the film all the more special.
Finally, you are clearly overworked with upcoming projects like Bachchan Pandey, Bhediya, and Adipurush. When all these films see the light of the day, why do you feel Mimi would remain special?
Mimi is definitely the first film solely on my shoulders. In all the other films, I'm sharing the responsibility. That's always going to be special and different. The 15 kg I've gained was a journey in itself. This film gave me a lot to do, with its intensity, its humour, its graph of my character. There are some films that open up a lot inside you, as both an actor and a person. It just makes you realise you can do dig deeper and fly higher. Mimi is the first film that's made me do that. That's why I'm so obsessed with and passionate about it. Mimi is always going to be a mini part of my heart.
Mimi is now streaming on Jio Cinemas and Netflix India.