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Laxmii Review: Akshay Kumar, Kiara Advani Starrer Is A Phuski Bomb That Went Bust With Our Expectations

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There are a lot of things that you see happening in 2020 that make you wonder, why are we still doing this? Gender bias, racial profiling, casteism, superstition, rigid work shifts…. Here’s my petition to add Akshay Kumar and Kiara Advani starrer Laxmii to the list. Raghava Lawrence’s remake of his own Tamil franchise film Kanchana is the latest addition to the list of South Indian movies that did not need to be remade in Hindi. Positioned as a horror comedy, it is devoid of either, unless you count the horror of enduring hammy performances from its cast, and the comedy that comes from you being fooled into investing 2+ hours in the film. Oh no, wait, no, that’s a tragedy.

The film also stars Rajesh Sharma, Ayesha Raza Mishra, Manu Rishi Chadha, Ashwini Kalsekar, Tarun Arora, Prachee Shah Pandya and Sharad Kelkar, amongst others. It’s produced by Akshay Kumar’s Cape Of Good Films, Fox Star Studios, Shabina Khan, and marks the debut of Tusshar Kapoor as producer with his company, Tusshar Entertainment.

 

The plot is the real ghost. Because it has no body, head nor tail. It just exists in limbo.

Asif is a man of science and loves exposing dhongi babas and shattering superstitions. He eloped and is now married to a Hindu girl, Rashami, and is raising his deceased brother and sister-in-law’s son, Shaan, in Dubai. So that should tell you he doesn’t believe in ‘bhed-bhaav‘, religious or otherwise, and is a nice man. Except, he doesn’t care much about shattering gender stereotypes because he’s weirdly obsessed with thinking that wearing bangles is emasculating. It’s how he constantly assures people that there are no such things as ghosts, because otherwise, his male ego would be hurt from being proven wrong, and immediately, he’d resign himself to femininity by wearing bangles. Sigh.

Rashami’s parents (and RW Twitter trolls) were against their union. But Maa Ka Dil couldn’t bear the pangs of separation and invited her daughter and her husband for Rashami’s father’s and her wedding anniversary. They live in a palatial bungalow in to Daman, India, with their son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren. Everyone’s super onboard with Asif because he seems nice, except patriarchy-ingrained Papa, because ego was hurt when daughter eloped. When he finally comes around to accepting Asif, and they’re all set to recreate their own version of the Tanishq Ad, literally a ghost of the past grips Asif tight.

The rest of the film is textbook ghost possession. Asif starts acting like a woman. The woman of the house are the first and only people to notice something is wrong, because do men even pay attention to trivial things like noises around the house or family members acting weird? A few more babas of different spiritualities are brought on board. Ghost is trapped. And we get the backstory of a transgender woman called Laxmii, who slogged hard to buy land to do good for their community but was swindled by a land shark and his family. Anshuman from Jab We Met finally earns all those expletives that Geet threw at him on the phone, as he mercilessly kills Laxmii’s family too. With one member still alive who could inherit the property, the ghost must stick to a timeline and kill the bad guys to take control of the property.

For some bizarre reason, our man of science, who could give Velma from Scooby Doo a run for her money, readily agrees to be the vessel of Laxmii’s revenge. And the rest, as they say, is predictable happy ending. Not for the villain, though. He gonna die bloody, fam.

 

Also Read: 5 Thoughts I Had While Watching Laxmmi Bomb Trailer. Mainly Ki, Akshay Kumar’s Trans Act Feels Caricaturish, No?

One of the biggest issues with this plot is that the film lavishes details where they are not needed at all. And where they should’ve give the story time to fester and ripen, they’ve bestowed zero attention or logic. For example, why did the kid have to be Asif’s nephew and not his son? What difference would it make? If it was an attempt to draw a parallel between Laxmii not having her own family and making one, then there was failure to communicate. Similarly, why is everyone in a haunted house venturing out to check on eerie ghost sounds by themselves? Why does the ghost only possess Asif? Listen, I am a diehard Supernatural fan, okay. Ghosts can possess anyone once they’re in your house. This one wasted so much time finding a host body!

Also, explain to me like I’m five and know nothing of land possession. But if a land shark seizes land from rightful owner, he probably was smart enough to get fake papers and stuff in his name. So how does killing him and his family ensure that the possession passes on to the original owner? If I know enough of succession law (and I do, I studied law), the property passes on to subsequent heirs and so on, and if no one, then to the government. I know it’s expecting too much logic from an Akshay Kumar movie at this point. But everyone in this movie, especially Laxmii, just reacts so hastily without giving a second’s thought to what the result will be. Legal remedy? Nope. Going to the villain’s with backup? Nope. Telling your wife you want to let a ghost possess you so you can be the medium for their revenge? Nope, sir.

And that is the problem with the whole script. Even Asif’s readiness to allow Laxmii to possess him isn’t allowed to sink in. We don’t know what his thought process is! Instead of spending time on building that connection, we get two ridiculously timed songs that I fast-forwarded through because it felt like trying to climb your way to the top of Burj Khalifa instead of taking the elevator.

Came to see representation and sensitivity that was promised in Laxmii, along with humour. But it was all lost in hammy performances and unnecessary gore.

Akshay Kumar promised that they had dealt with transgender representation in the most sensitive way. They even brought on a consultant to ensure that they didn’t mess it up.

Narrator: They messed it up.

The only scene that you could label as representative of trans lives’ struggles is when Sharad Kelkar as Laxmii gives an impassioned speech about how their families, instead of shunning them and blaming them for being who they are, should accept, love and educate them. There really is no difference, no ‘us’ and ‘them’; we’re all just people with emotions that make us who we are. If we feel unworthy, we are unworthy. And if we feel invincible, then we are that. If only this one scene was enough to make the movie feel like it could make a difference. I don’t think they makers manifested it so strongly, otherwise, this could’ve been a good film.

In fact, I feel like, if anything, the movie might further this “scary” image of transpeople that most orthodox minds in our country have nurtured over the ages.

Also Read: Akshay Kumar Says Laxmii Handles Transgender Acceptability Sensitively. We’re Not So Sure, Though

I had early on decided that I wasn’t going to judge the movie by its trailer or controversies. So when I switched the film on, I went in purely to check out this representation that was promised. And the comedy that Akshay Kumar is so capable of and proved he could deliver in Bhool Bhulaiyya. You’ll find subtle nods to this cult classic in the film, like a huge painting of a dancer à la Manjulika’s painting in the movie that Kumar and Vidya Balan find in the locked rooms. Or Manu Rishi Chadha teasing Akshay Kumar with the word “Goti”. But it lacks the comedic punch lines, the humour in the characters’ fearful moments, and the hilarious family dynamics that were part of the Priyadarshani film. I thought, if not the scares, at least the humour would save me. But Raghava Lawrence and Farhad Samji, director of Housefull 4, two of the writers on the film, couldn’t manage to elicit decent laughs from me too. The humour feels forced. It legit made me thirsty for good horror comedy.

The performances from every single cast member are so hammy and overdone. Instead of laughing about what they were doing, I just felt sad for them. Because some of these actors are proven performers in their other movies. Rajesh Sharma, Ayesha Raza and Manu Rishi are a regular sight these days in small-town comedies that win big on the audience poll. To see them being wasted and made to overdo everything was disappointing.

The only person who felt underwhelming was Kiara Advani. She had absolutely nothing to do. She looked pretty in Burj Khalifa. And for a film that says it wants to represent transpeople better, it does a shoddy job when it comes to female representation.

Also Read: Kiara Advani Dons A Gorgeous Lehenga For The Promotions Of Laxmmi Bomb While Akshay Kumar Is Out In Sweats. Someone Please Explain Why

Akshay Kumar and Sharad Kelkar give it all they got. But even double Laxmii cannot light our fire.

I’ll give you this. Akshay Kumar has some really intense moments as Laxmii, which are stark contrast to when he is playing Asif. He looks bored, tired and his age, which when it’s Akki, that’s saying something. As Laxmii, though, he turns on the power, and it’s cranked up to full during the climax. He looks so… for the lack of a better word… comfortable playing the character? It doesn’t feel caricaturish once you’ve seen how the real Laxmii plays her part. The final moments in the film are when Akshay fully comes into the zone. And at several points, he looks every bit the scary entity he is supposed to be embodying in the movie. It’s quite an unforgettable spectacle alright. But of course, the effect is ruined by all the overkill, and the end scene that follows.

Sharad Kelkar, though, really brings the heat despite his titular character becoming a short cameo. He throws some powerful emotion in his performance, and that speech really sells only because Sharad put the effort into it.

Verdict: Why are we making these movies in 2020, again? Point kya hai?

I’m actually not surprised that it would take a year as ghastly a 2020 to extract such a dud from Akshay Kumar. But then I remembered Housefull 4, and I was like, ye bhi theek hai.

Laxmii feels like two movies rolled into one—a nonsensical South-Indian movie and a B-grade horror film—that you’re randomly switching between. Unfortunately neither are entertaining. I don’t understand, when you have such good content in the industry right now, why are producers still investing money in movies like these? Compare Laxmii  to a Stree and you’ll realise how a clever horror-comedy with a social message is done! Even Bhool Bhulaiyya, for that matter, makes a point about our society, and how we fall for superstitions and phenomena we can’t explain when it is actually our human psyche that creates its own ghosts.

With Laxmii, I don’t know what is the point that the makers are gunning toward? Should we believe in science like Asif? But then, didn’t he get proven wrong when he encountered a ghost? So do we believe in bhoot-pret now? How is the film doing any commentary on trans-representation, other than showing them as violent, revenge-filled beings who are overly emotional and don’t think before they act? Or who will haunt you forever if you piss them off?

If the point is none of the above, but simply entertainment, then the film fails miserably at making that too. In short, it’s a phuski bomb that should never have been lit in the first place.

Laxmii is currently haunting on Disney+Hotstar.

Also Read: Trolls Morphed Twinkle Khanna’s Pictures On Laxmii Poster And Called It “Twinkle Bomb”. So We’re Trolling Women For Men’s Actions, Again?

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