Mumbai, 10 Nov 2020 12:33 IST
Raghava Lawrence's film has little style, a lot of ham and no chills or thrills to speak of.
They promised a horror-comedy that would scare you witless, and scare you it does. Raghava Lawrence's Laxmii succeeds at making you tremble at the prospect of outdated and idiotic films clogging up OTT platforms. The Hindi-language remake of the filmmaker's 2011 Tamil hit Muni 2: Kanchana is tacky, troubling and tiresome.
The story is simple. Aasif (Akshay Kumar) is a rationalist who works as an anti-superstition activist. Married to Rashmi (Kiara Advani), he is visiting his in-laws for the first time in five years. His father-in-law hates him for his religion and has done everything but scream 'love jihad' in his face. Just as he begins to sort things out with his wive's folks, the spirit of a murdered transgender Laxmii, and her adopted family, choose Aasif as the means to exact revenge on her killer. Cue the hysterics.
The original film was panned by critics but, as fate would have it, made enough money to catch the attention of Hindi film producers.
The film's story and plot hark back to the 1990s when Jaya Prada's maternal ghost came back to confront her killers. With its dated stereotypes and annoying hysterics, the film offends adherents of multiple religions and all genders.
It is the latest addition to the list of films portraying transgenders simply as men donning feminine attire who lack an iota of femininity or grace. This portrayal does not help transgenders and non-binaries whose lives are filled with its own share of horrors in a country as divided, prejudiced and ignorant as ours.
Of course, there is the token tribute speech about transgenders deserving the same love, affection, and rights as anyone else. But throughout the film, the character of Laxmii appears violent, masculine, and angry. To be fair, the makers nail the confusion experienced by certain growing children who struggle to identify with one gender. But Laxmii, having identified as a woman, problematically displays masculine traits in her actions, thoughts and threats. Whether it is Akshay Kumar or Sharad Kelkar, neither manages to encapsulate feminine grace in their performances.
If the story dates back to the 1990s, the screenplay goes back even further. The introduction is followed by a song while there is a tune to establish romance. With the visual effects director being apportioned the lion's share of the bloated budget, ghosts make plentiful appearances. Sadly, they fall short of being funny. The climax is simply a massive rave party on the beach that doubles up as a convenient murder location. If that wasn't cheesy enough, wait for the denouement. If you have the stomach for it, that is.
With weak lines and a plodding plot, the actors are reduced to delivering tortuous over-the-top performances and hammed-up reactions. Manu Rishi Chadha, Ashwini Khalsekar, Rajesh Sharma, Ayesha Raza Mishra are reduced to caricatures who spout dialogue that has more corn than this reviewer's breakfast cereal. Kiara Advani has the easiest job — looking good, and acting scared — and does it well enough.
Then, there is Akshay Kumar, an actor who can pull off difficult roles, if he applies himself. In Laxmii, the actor looks like he stopped trying when the introduction song kicked off. As Aasif, the actor is barely bearable, but as Laxmii he becomes downright difficult. If the portrayal was not problematic enough, the actor's performance is clownish. There are small moments when his natural flair for comedy comes in handy, they are far and few between.
The only thing scary about the film is the thought that the makers might opt for a theatrical release. For films such as Laxmii, one is grateful for the small-screen experience.
Laxmii is being streamed on Disney+ Hotstar.
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