Review Hindi

Tikli And Laxmi Bomb review: A feminist boost for workers in the sex trade

Release Date: 31 Jul 2018 / 02hr 31min

Cinestaan Rating

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Blessy Chettiar

The more striking, and critical, subtext of Tikli And Laxmi Bomb is the gradual and open challenge to patriarchy and the birth of feminist power in what is the most oppressed class of society.

In Tikli And Laxmi Bomb, Aditya Kripalani ventures into the seedy bylanes of a Mumbai bathed in the cold white light of street lamps and trains his lens on the lives of commercial sex workers, creatures satisfying the needs of an insatiable city.

This cold end of the business is in contrast with the warm bond the girls share. They look out for one another, taking on matriarchal and often protector roles in turns, when the need arises.

The more striking, and critical, subtext of Tikli And Laxmi Bomb is the gradual and open challenge to patriarchy and the birth of feminist power in what is otherwise the most oppressed class of society.

Based on a book written by Kripalani, the film is barely appealing visually. The footage is grainy sometimes, it’s peskily dark at other times, and the songs drag the screenplay. Some smart editing could have added to the exhilaration, in line with what the women experience as they roll out their own little revolution of starting a cooperative.

The film opens with Laxmi waking up with a headache after a suicide attempt the night before. “Atmahatyat pann fail [A failure at suicide too]," she tells herself. The scene is telling of what these commercial sex workers come home to — alcohol and drug abuse, depression, and a void that no money they may ever earn can fill.

On a worknight comes Putul with the rough Mhatre, a handler who is paid to ‘protect’ the girls. Unbeknownst to Mhatre, the fiery Putul brings her own ideas to the coterie that had been resigned to the male-dominated hierarchical set-up.

The loud-mouthed Bengali is asking uncomfortable questions — why do we allow men to take advantage of us? While Laxmi dismisses her saying something that amounts to reverse sexism, it is only later that the loyal Laxmi realizes how right Putul is. The Marxist undertones to Putul’s character are evident as she suggests the women revolt and overthrow the existing order to earn their living.

The simple idea earns her the sobriquet of Tikli, or the smallest firecracker that makes a big noise. Now it is up to Laxmi to join the revolution or let her girls suffer at the hands of their so-called protectors. Will Laxmi live up to her name and make the loudest sound like the laxmi bomb heard during Diwali?

The dangers these women face as they go about business in the dead of night is captured realistically by director Kripalani. Cheats, guns, knives are all in a night’s work for these women simply wanting a secure work environment.

The sensitive outlook and non-preachy approach are refreshing, though the subject matter is not. Some of the scenes involving the police and politicians are disturbing, but keeping them is a decision Kripalani makes to keep it real. Fidgety feet, sweaty palms, fearful faces are windows into the inner turmoil these so-called ‘bold’ women go through.

Vibhawari Deshpande and Chitrangada Chakraborty as Tikli and Laxmi Bomb, respectively, form a great team. Their struggles, outlooks, approaches to life are like chalk and cheese, but they are hesitantly bound together by a common cause that could change the way their trade looks at its most important link — the women. How long they are able to sustain this spark to turn it into a successful revolution is the open-ended question.

The actresses put up a confident front, making the viewer empathetic to their plight, which they are about to turn into a profitable business. They are ably supported by other actresses and actors — Suchitra Pillai (unusually restrained), Kritika Pande (sprightly, yet cautious), Upendra Limaye (wicked) and Mayur More (careless, natural).

Kripalani treads carefully through this noirish tale. Revelation of Tikli’s back story is a good call to keep the audience satisfied. However, a sense of incompleteness prevails as we never know the story behind Laxmi’s entry into the sex trade.

Despite its lack of technical finesse and uncomfortable sequences, Tikli And Laxmi Bomb is essential viewing. Tikili And Laxmi Bomb is currently streaming on the digital platform Netflix.

Correction, 19 May 2021: An earlier version of the review had the film's title jumbled up as Laxmi And Tikli Bomb in the headline.


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