‘Mike’ movie review: A shallow attempt at winning progressive brownie points

The film ends up muddying debate for those truly needing gender reassignment surgery

August 19, 2022 06:19 pm | Updated August 22, 2022 12:04 pm IST

A still from ‘Mike’.

A still from ‘Mike’.

In an industry which was not so long ago filled with movies normalising regressive ideas, it is heartening to have young filmmakers trying to foreground progressive politics. But when these progressive ideas are used mainly as selling points without understanding their various nuances, it shows through. Mike, scripted by Ashik Akbar Ali and directed by Vishnu Sivaprasad, becomes an example of this latter category.

From its trailers and the title song, it was amply clear that the theme of the movie would revolve around gender reassignment surgery. Unfortunately, the script has hardly anything more to convey on the subject other than the references in the title song. On the other hand, the film unintentionally ends up muddying the debate for the many who would actually need to depend on such a surgery to live a fulfilling life.

At the centre of the narrative is Sarah (Anaswara Rajan) who is fed up with all the troubles and limitations that a girl has to face, especially in small-town India. She believes that transforming physically into a male would help her overcome these difficulties, including the ones within her family. She adopts the name Mike and signs up for gender reassignment surgery. During her lonely journey, after leaving home, she meets Antony (Ranjith Sajeev) who is mired in depression due to personal tragedies.

Once the scriptwriter has taken the plunge after taking up a bold theme, he is really not sure of what he wants to convey. This is evident in the considerable amount of time the script dedicates to the background stories of the two characters. Antony’s story is quite bizarre and pointless, aimed only at showcasing the debutant actor’s dance and fighting prowess.

When the film returns to the central theme quite late in the day, it is again not sure of what it wants to say. Despite the several cases of LGBTQ community members choosing to do a gender reassignment surgery due to genuine biological reasons, the makers of the film chose to do a film on a girl who would choose to do it on a whim due to various social reasons. A sequence at the fag end of the film trying to explain this does not help much either. The only one who comes out shining from the film is Anaswara, managing to convey the character’s dilemmas effectively.

It is only in the recent years that the LGBTQ community has been able to achieve some mainstream visibility for their issues. There have been several documented cases of people who have undergone gender reassignment surgery facing societal backlash. In such a scenario, the kind of message this film tries to convey would make it still harder for those who have to fight many misconceptions to lead a normal life. Such attempts at portraying progressive ideas to win a few brownie points do more harm than good.

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