Dukaan review: Mimi who? Jasmine is the new ‘Mother’ India

Dukaan review: Mimi who? Jasmine is the new ‘Mother’ India

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Though no longer a virgin territory, Monika Panwar’s performance is a sheer tour de force. Monali Thakur, the actor is impressive too. Anirban Chatterjee’s visual artistry, Sunil Jain’s captivating production design compel you to visit Siddharth-Garima’s dukaan of surrogacy.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️ ( 3 / 5)

Dukaan [2024]

By IndiaLevel Media

No emotion, only professional. There is no room for one when you are in the business of surrogacy. A Jasmine is the dream for such baby vending machines. No, it’s not us, nor the society, but Jasmine [Monika Panwar] herself who is proudly flaunting this ‘dukaan’ (shop) of surrogacy.

Phew, is this some kind of surrogate soliciting? The literal pot-like bellies of Jasmine & co. staring you from the Dukaan poster alone had us worried as to what really are Siddharth Singh and Garima Wahal upto? The noted lyricists, screenwriters make their directorial debut with Dukaan. There’s a delightful unabashedness to Jasmine’s ‘no emotion, only professional’ promise. She, however, calls upon customers to reciprocate with the 3Ds – dil, darwaza, and dena.  Have an heart, open your doors a bit, andl learn to give respect. In between, she praises the foreign customers who always express gratitude. Jeez, was that any subtle dig at Laxman Utekar’s Mimi [2021]?

Siddharth-Garima knew that the Mimi monster will linger over their Dukaan [2024]. The duo claimed that their film was ready in 2021, but it was naturally Mimi that was going to take the lead. However, the first film to enter this ‘surrogate’ zone was the acclaimed National Award winning Marathi film Mala Aai Vhhaychy! [2011] by Samruoddhi Porey. Mimi is a poor copy of the Marathi film, but the Bollywood movie was perhaps more celebrated – courtesy PR.

No virgin plot, Mimi bagging accolades, and Dukaan coming near three years late. So, it was on the backfoot to begin with, yet it easily outshines the overrated Mimi. The latter was purely an individual story, whereas Dukaan tells the tale of a humble surrogate facility in Anand, Gujarat. Mimi was slammed for its poor research, period as it ignored a vital fact that the in 2015, Indian government had banned foreigners from hiring surrogate mothers.

Siddharth-Garima are wise in placing their film from 1980 to 2015. Mimi’s surrogacy was driven by ‘glamourous’ greed. Thus it could never connect with this reviewer. Economic crisis plays it part, but it’s almost befuddling as to why someone, who hated kids from an early age, opt for surrogacy? Jasmine has a son, but no emotional feelings for him. At 17, she married the widower Sumer [Sikander Kher], whose daughter was her junior in school. Jasmine saw this as an escape route from her tyrant, poor father. She loved Sumer, but didn’t want a child. So, it agains begs the question, why would this woman opt for surrogacy?

What was that? No emotion, only professional. Ah, doesn’t that then make Jasmine the ideal surrogate mother? Take money, just deliver and forget it. The only way there’d be trouble is when a surrogate mother develops feelings for the child. Surely, Jasmine isn’t emotional. Or is she?

No man can ever understand a mother’s mind. You might if you listen to your inner child. No, it’s not overhearing the classist comments from her customers, but the preceding few spiritual moments with her mother that gave birth to the mother in Jasmine. Thereafter, Dukaan follows a predictable route, but it earns respect for its mature handling of the subject, and fine storytelling. There is conflict, drama, a tad melodrama later, but not once does Dukaan trivialize a serious issue. Along the way, it condemns classism, privilege, subtly points to the caste factor too, but never strips anyone of their dignity. It even mentions adoption. Dukaan strikes the right conversations around surrogacy.

None of it would have any meaning without this dynamite girl Monika Panwar. The Uttarakhand born Panwar seems at ease with the Gujarati accent. Not once dId it sound forced. That’s where the theatre experience comes in handy. Living with an abusive father has naturally toughened her from an early age. Since then she’s had this bitter yet enchanting tone. Panwar charms with her body language, bittersweet tone, positivity, relentless spirit.

If your mother raised you by drilling into your head that a father is always right, Jasmine is perhaps immune to pain and sufferings. That trauma perhaps explains why she never had an emotional connect with Sumer and her son Dhaval. Few years later, it is unusual to see a mother seek forgiveness from her son. The boy though doesn’t curse her. He simply says, “it’s okay! Your neglect is what made me responsible from an early age.” Phew! Speechless.

The best description of a Jasmine comes from her 4-year-old surrogate child Jamaal who says, “Gazab Gujarati ka gazab jugad”. Though a Garhwali, Panwar epitomises the true feisty, entrepreneurial Gujarati spirit. After all the roller coaster ride, the divine reference forges a spiritual connect with the viewers. It’s in that moment, when you sense a Durga, Jagdambe, and a Saraswati in Panwar. That pot belly though needed better prosthethic. The years roll by, but Panwar still looks 17.

Monali Thakur

Like Panwar, we are introduced to the acting talent of Monali Thakur. Known primarily as a respected playback singer, Thakur surprises viewers with her compelling performance as Diya, who arrives at the modest surrogate facility. Their initial encounter is far from friendly. Diya takes offense at Jasmine’s casual remarks, interpreting them as mockery of her inability to conceive. In a fit of anger, Diya brandishes a knife, only to drop it moments later and apologize to Jasmine. Thakur’s flawless transition in this pivotal moment showcases her acting prowess.

Soham Majumdar, who previously impressed in Sajani Shinde Ka Viral Video [2023], once again delivers a compelling performance. Here, he portrays the frustration of a privileged man grappling with infertility. As Armaan, Majumdar exhibits a tough exterior while interacting with Jasmine, but his vulnerability becomes apparent as he vents his frustrations at Diya as well. Once again, Majumdar’s performance is flawless.

Siddharth and Garima sensitively portray not only a mother’s perspective but also shed light on a father’s plight, a perspective often overlooked. Through their nuanced portrayal, they engage the audience in a deeper understanding of Diya and Armaan’s struggles.

Siddharth-Garima have researched well on the subject, and educate the viewers on the science behind it. Former journalist Geetika Tyagi impresses as Dr.Nayva Chandel, the head of the surrogate facility. The film though doesn’t dwell much on the potential health risks by repeated surrogacy.

Dukaan’s visual storytelling subtly echoes the influence of Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Notably, Garima, Siddharth, and cinematographer Anirban Chatterjee have all refined their craft under the guidance of the master filmmaker in the past. The opening scene, with the camera gracefully panning into an old mansion and gliding down to the pond, where pregnant women adorned in red are creatively positioned, is truly captivating and reminiscent of Bhansali’s signature style.

Chatterjee has to thank Sunil Jain for the immersive production design. Dukaan scores well on its music, with each track fitting well to the corresponding situation. Moh Na Lage – composer Shreyas Puranik’s duet with Arijit Singh is a soothing number.

“In the past, the line ‘main tere bachke ki maa banne wali hoon‘ (I’m going to be the mother of your child) in films carried a different implication. However, in this film, the lyrics mirror Jasmine’s carefree attitude. As she asserts at the beginning, ‘Current ko current nahi lagta‘ Panwar exudes energy and magnetism, captivating the audience while also warning of the potential repercussions of getting too close to Jasmine.

Yes, this Dukaan is selling an old item, but it’s better quality, packaged well, and sure worth your time. Move over Mimi, make way for the new ‘Mother’ India.

Dukaan review: Mimi who? Jasmine is the new ‘Mother’ India

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