After the conclusion of the never-ending US elections and much-needed IPL, I was dreading to go back to the haunting reality of 2020 – COVID-19, social distancing, travel restrictions, etc. I had almost forgotten about another poignant aspect of 2020, and thanks to Disney+ Hotstar‘s latest release, Laxmii, I was reminded of it – abysmal curation of Indian content.
Touted as a blockbuster Diwali release, Laxmii is an Indian supernatural comedy film starring Akshay Kumar and Kiara Advani as the lead stars and directed by Raghava Lawrence. Asif (Akshay Kumar) is a no-nonsense, practical person who does not believe in ghosts. Rashmi (Kiara Advani) is married to Asif and is on the receiving end from her parents because of marrying a Muslim guy. The drama unfolds when Asif and Rashmi reach her parents’ house to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary and Asif gets possessed by Laxmii, a transgender ghost, who is out for vengeance towards a family that wronged her. ‘Laxmii’ is a remake of the 2011 Tamil film ‘Kanchana’, directed by Raghava Lawrence himself.
Within the first 6 minutes of the movie, I had to take a break after looking at the film’s tacky production quality. The film uses a wig to portray a black shadow and it’s not even scary. The writing of the film is ordinary. As soon as the scene begins, you can more or less guess what might transpire next. Although surrounded by a strong supporting cast such as Ashwini Kalsekar, Ayesha Raza, and Rajesh Sharma, all jokes seem to be forced and delivered in a shrill manner. For example – When one actor is haunted by the ghost, the actor starts dancing to ‘Maardala’ from the film ‘Devdas.’ We have seen similar humor in Bhool Bhulaiyaa and in Stree, but the difference is that of a powerful script. Even the brilliant acting of Akshay Kumar and Sharad Kelkar is rendered ineffective due to the frail script.
Observing the haphazard sequencing of Laxmii reminded me of a kid playing the video game Tetris in a negligent manner. Imagine what the end result would look like if all differently-shaped objects fall in random order. That’s exactly what the story of this movie comes across as. The film has one subplot too many. Asif adopts his late brother’s son but take a guess as to how much value it adds to the central story of the movie – nothing. We have an interfaith marriage, and guess how much value it adds to the story – very little. If that’s not enough, in one scene, Laxmii transforms her form to resemble the character ‘Pennywise’ from the famous Hollywood film ‘It.’ Additionally, the location of the haunted place in this film reminds us of the abandoned house in ‘It’.
If we overlook the loud acting and weak direction, we might be able to appreciate the social message this film conveys. The film attempts to chronicle a marginalized transgender community’s struggle in India and the stigma it faces in everyday life. However, it is buried deep below the debris of the poorly scripted layers of the film.
Reviewed by Puneet Ruparel