- The film is haunted by insufferable idiocy, no matter how hard the actors try to do the nonsensical screenplay justice.
Bollywood’s latest offering, “Laxmii,” is a case of mistaken identity. Writer-director Raghava Lawrence’s 2011 Tamil horror-comedy Muni 2: Kanchana, remade into Hindi as “Laxmii,” leaves the audience cringing in disbelief. With a star studded ensemble – Akshay Kumar, Kiara Advani, Sharad Kelkar, Rajesh Sharma, Ayesha Raza Mishra, Manu Rishi Chadha, Ashwini Kalsekar and Tarun Arora — “Laxmii” is a dud plagued by a bizarre storyline overrun by excess, pedestrian acting and a message — well let’s just say confusing at best.
It is just as well that this film was forced by controversies to drop ‘Bomb’ from its title. Streaming on Disney-Hotstar, “Laxmii” never gets anywhere near delivering entertainment that could be deemed explosive. If anything, it is exhausting in its paper-thin storyline and pedantic acting. Starring a hammy Akshay Kumar as a man possessed by a transgender revenge-seeker who returns from the dead to attend to unfinished business, “Laxmii” is dreadful.
Somewhere deep inside the mess that’s “Laxmii” there is the germ of a great socially relevant idea: to tell us the plight of a transgender person, with empathy and sympathy. But this Akshay Kumar-starrer is a three-hour long disaster that will leave you clutching your head in agony, wondering can I really be watching this rubbish?
“Laxmii” is haunted by insufferable idiocy, no matter how hard the actors try to do the nonsensical screenplay justice. The cast have a tall order — carry the burden of lame gags on their shoulders desperately trying to hide the film’s regressive core – one they fail to deliver.
So here goes trying to make sense of this nonsense.
The male protagonist Asif (Akshay Kumar), does not believe in the existence of ghosts. “If I do chance upon a ghost”, he declares more than once, “main chudiya pehen loonga “(I will start wearing bangles). Apart from being offensive from the perspective of gender sensitivity, his weird statement of intent makes as little sense as anything that the rest of the film has to offer.
Aasif (gulp, yes, a Muslim), is married to Rashmi (Advani), a good Hindu girl, much to daddy’s (Rajesh Sharma) resentment. Rashmi’s mum (Ayesha Raza Mishra) asks estranged beti to come home, and all will be forgiven, naaraaz daddyji notwithstanding. To Daman gothe happy couple with orphan nephew Shaan (for added aww value) in tow, expecting to be blessed, and taken back into the fold. A series of events follows and leads to the ghost of a transgender person, “Laxmii” possessing Asif’s body.
In an India where the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) openly demonizes Muslim men who marry Hindu women and uses the repugnant term “love jihad” to label all such marriages, it is significant that a leading Bollywood actor has chosen to play a Muslim man married to a Hindu woman. That this actor has come out as a BJP supporter in recent years makes the move all the more noteworthy (even if somewhat inexplicable). But speaking out against ‘love jihad’ is not the social theme of this movie, even if the precocious child actor spouts abhi bhi Hindu-Muslim mein atkey huey hain to bring home the fact.
When the vengeful spirit takes hold of Asif, one of the first things the latter does is sport bright red bangles. He gnashes his teeth, ululates threateningly and adopts a swaying gait to indicate that he is no longer the Asif that his wife Rashmi knows and loves. The lady and her parents and brother (Manu Rishi) and sis-in-law (Ashwini Kalsekar) are alarmed by Asif’s auraton waali harkatein (feminine mannerisms). Get ready for some insulting stereotypes here that culminates in all the transgender characters clapping their hands, raising their saris, and dancing around a fire and a larger than life Shiva statue on a full moon night to the beat of Bam Bhole.
This horror-comedy is full of stereotypes from a haunted parcel of land which bleeds, menacing shadows flitting about in the middle of the night crying and laughing alternately, creaking doors, rocking horses with an eerie shadow of a child on it reducing the household, which includes Rashmi’s brother and sister-in-law to gibbering buffoons – all meant to terrify you but does nothing but leave you more bewildered.
To make matters worse cue in the religious babas, and protective vibhuti, and a three-eyed-coconut which spins if it senses an evil spirit, and all stereotypes are covered. Nope, not kidding. And since we are being very secular here, there’s also a kohl-eyed Musalmaan pir (religious man) who holds out a taaweez which will keep our hero mehfooz! The threat of a Christian exorcism-performing priest is held out too, but mercifully the script, as little as there is, forgets about it.
No one succeeds, not even Akshay Kumar, who can be really good when he has the right script in hand. The only one does take his role seriously and is somewhat effective in the portrayal of Laxmii, the kinni(transgender), is Sharad Kelkar.
Kiara Advani seems to be in a daze throughout the movie – sometimes trying too hard and at others, not at all.
Do yourself a favor and spare yourself a three-hour ordeal.Produced by Tusshar Kapoor and Shabinaa Khan, “Laxmii”…..bombed!
Anu Ghosh immigrated to the U.S. from India in 1999. Back in India she was a journalist for the Times of India in Pune for 8 years and a graduate from the Symbiosis Institute of Journalism and Communication. In the U.S., she obtained her Masters and PhD. in Communications from The Ohio State University. Go Buckeyes! She has been involved in education for the last 15 years, as a professor at Oglethorpe University and then Georgia State University. She currently teaches Special Education at Oak Grove Elementary. She is also a mom to two precocious girls ages 11 and 6.