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Laxmii review: More problematic than progressive

Laxmii is a remake of the Tamil hit Kanchana

Source: SIFY

By: Sonia Chopra

Critic's Rating: 2.5/5

Wednesday 11 November 2020

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Movie Title

Laxmii review: More problematic than progressive

Director

Raghava Lawrence

Star Cast

Akshay Kumar, Kiara Advani, Sharad Kelkar, Rajesh Sharma, Ayesha Raza Mishra, Manu Rishi Chadha

This is a world where spirits can possess people through lemongrass tea, a coconut spins to signal paranormal presence, and a thread around the wrist keeps supernatural entities away. A world where ‘bad guys doing bad things’ is the extent of depth awarded to the villains. And ‘she’s back for revenge’ is the apt definition for the wandering spirit. 

At least Laxmii’s character (the spirit) gets some backstory and arc. We learn of Laxmii’s childhood where she was disowned by her own family for being transgender. She finds a benevolent stranger who takes her in and encourages her authentic self

Laxmii grows into a confident person and begins helping other transgender people as well. But then, she gets embroiled in a property altercation, and is murdered by the ‘bad guys’.

Itching for revenge, Laxmii possesses Asif (Akshay Kumar) an average Joe who, ironically, encourages people to believe in science over superstition.

Married to Priya (Kiara Advani), Asif aims to win over her family that was disgruntled with the inter-faith marriage. (Kudos to the film for weaving in an inter-faith marriage in the narrative.) Just as the family is warming up to him, he gets possessed and begins walking around in a bindi, red sari and bangles

Laxmii wants revenge, and so Akshay Kumar in a red sari goes about the job, breaking into a high-powered dance in the middle of it all.  

Akshay Kumar does well in scenes like the saree shop one, where he first acts out his possession. He dances with full abandon in the finale song, but sometimes it’s an act that’s a bit too loud. Sharad Kelkar gives a heartful performance as Laxmii.  

Kiara Advani is required to be a vanilla, non-interfering, non-threatening leading lady and she complies. The two scene-stealers bringing in a few moments of comedy are Ayesha Raza as Kiara’s mother with a fondness for the bottle, and Ashwini Kalsekar as the snoopy sister-in-law

Now for the most crucial thing. How does the film portray the trans person’s character—is it respectful or problematic

The film talks about how anyone who is ‘different’ is outcasted from society. Another dialogue states that even on official forms ‘transgender’ is rightly mentioned as the third gender. Laxmii’s childhood where she was abandoned by her family, when she needed their love and support the most is heart-wrenching. It is heartening when someone explains to the child that they are a miracle, bringing in the Lord Shiv’s Ardhanarishwar (amalgamation of male and female) avatar. However, deifying someone is a slippery slope (take the portrayal of women, for example)

There are other problematic areas. The transgender character, a revengeful ghost, is weirdly loud throughout. But the character really goes all-out in the finale with clacking teeth and sonorous screams. In a world where blatant transphobia is a reality, this kind of a portrayal is unwelcome.

Other objectionable themes include weird superstitious tropes (that are proven to be right in the film), and sexist dialogue like Asif saying he’ll wear bangles if he’s proven wrong. Are we really in 2020?

A remake of Tamil film Kanchana also directed by Raghava Lawrence, Laxmii ends up doing more harm than good. Perhaps well-intentioned, Laxmii had the potential to make a difference but it’s an opportunity missed.

(Laxmii can be viewed on Disney+Hotstar)

Sonia Chopra is a critic, columnist and screenwriter with over 15 years of experience. She tweets on @soniachopra2

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