Directed by Raghava Lawrence and starring Akshay Kumar, Kiara Advani, Manu Rishi Chadha, Ashwini Kalsekar, Rajesh Sharma, Ayesha Raza Mishra, Sharad Kelkar, Tarun Arora, Laxmii is now streaming on Disney+ Hotstar…
There’s not much one can say about Raghava Lawrence’s Laxmii, previously titled Laxmii Bomb. Most of the film is based in Daman, a Union Territory. Alcohol is relatively cheaper in UTs, and that’s the only conclusion I can draw after wasting 140 minutes of my life. Because no one in their right senses could make a film like this.
Laxmii is both islamophobic and transphobic, but things don’t end there. Both these phobias always tend to eat off/bite into each other. The idea of having a trans character at the forefront of the film, and having a Muslim character behind them seems like a noble one, but the writing of Laxmii doesn’t allow for this idea to flourish. Based on Lawrence’s own Tamil film, Kanchana, Laxmii is a step down from the original. The original was as problematic too (though it didn’t have a Hindu-Muslim angle), but it was released nine years back. In 2020, Laxmii seems like that tweet that should’ve stayed in drafts.
Akshay Kumar’s Asif and the ghost that inhabits Asif, Laxmii could’ve been wonderful characters. They have the potential. But the treatment doesn’t allow them to be. A film that could’ve been a game changer in terms of religious and gender equality sees these two characters as if they lack something. It’s brave for a BJP supporting Akshay Kumar to play a Muslim character married to a Hindu woman, but that does not take away from the fact that not just his character, but even his performance is derogatory and offensive in many ways. He surpasses even the definition of ‘stereotypical’. As both Asif and Laxmii he’s not funny, witty or even making sense. He simply mocks the the religion and gender that this film perhaps wanted to applaud. But neither his performance nor the writing is strong enough to do that. So, both Kumar and the writers end up making a clown out of Asif and Laxmii.
If the above mentioned (and more) phobias weren’t enough, Laxmii is also misogynistic. Here we have a leading man who has, in the past, always benefitted out of female narratives. Mission Mangal, Padman, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha – you name the film and he’s been in it to take credit. In Laxmii something about this leading man that we’re used to seeing (no matter how problematic) is even worse. A dialogue Akshay Kumar doesn’t mind mouthing, not once but a couple of times, goes, “agar maine bhooth dekha toh main chudiyan pehen lunga!” (I added the exclamation because he’s somehow excited and proud about this perception he has of gender roles).
The world is celebrating America’s first female Vice President. India did too. Pratibha Patil, former President of India was the first and only woman to assume office in India, but as a country we didn’t celebrate her achievements as we did for Kamala Harris. Why this point is relevant is because in India, we’re more concerned about ‘global’ issues and not those at home. And that’s the very reason why Laxmii would’ve gone to be a 100 Cr. film had it released in theatres. We don’t appreciate our women, we don’t care for them as long as our patriarchal ideologies are met. No, we don’t even care for them once these are met. And hence, Akshay Kumar doesn’t see any wrong in mouthing this dialogue. Because at the end of the day, his films always see women as the second sex.
And are we not going to talk about the very prominent age difference between Akshay Kumar and Kiara Advani? Kumar and Advani were last seen in Good Newwz in to two separate couple pairs with a very prominent age difference. Here they’re put together and the results are only disastrous. The fact that there’s absolutely no chemistry between them and Kiara Advani gives a very lost, uncomfortable performance (because she’s hardly doing anything in the film, maybe?) just adds to the mess that Laxmii is.
All in all, I’m all in for directors choosing whoever they want to in whatever role, but we need to stop cashing on oppressed communities while not only do we give them zero representation, but also end up misrepresenting them. Sharad Kelkar, who plays Laxmii (in flashback) could’ve easily been replaced by a trans actor, if not Kumar. And if Hindi Cinema has to teach its men how to play trans characters, they need to learn something from Vijay Sethupathi (Super Deluxe) and his wonderful performance as Shilpa. When you play a character that’s been oppressed (in this case, forever and continues to be so) there needs to be sensitivity and recognition. But at the hands of sleazy writing, poor direction and loud, uncomfortable performances, Laxmii is a lost opportunity with a lost cause.
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