8 Reasons Why Watching 'Laxmii' Made Me Scream 'WHY!'
Raghava Lawrence's Laxmii is a total cringefest.
In an otherwise dreadful year, what has helped us cling to some semblance of sanity is art. Locked in our homes, books, films and TV shows have offered a comfort like no other. Can that be said of Bollywood though? True, owing to the extensive lockdown, a number of filmmakers have held on to their works, waiting for an opportune moment to show them to the world. But barring a handful, the ones that have premiered on digital platforms haven't been too kind to us.
Sadak 2 tightly held on to the spot of being the worst film of the year, but trust Akshay Kumar to give serious competition. In fact, his latest horror-comedy Laxmii, a 'faithful' remake of a bad enough film Kanchana, ticks all the wrong boxes - it is boisterous, unfunny, dumb and cringeworthy. There's actually some dignity in being categorized under 'so bad it's good' movies. But I'll give you some reasons why Laxmii hangs limp, stripped of basic decency.
It’s 2020, But Wearing Bangles is Still An Insult
“The day I spot a ghost I will start wearing bangles” - Raghava Lawrence must have really put in a lot of effort and thought to come up with this line because we hear this being proclaimed with a smirk at least twice by none other than Akshay Kumar aka Asif. That leaves us wondering - it is 2020 and still we don’t shy away from equating bangles with femininity and weakness. And it’s not just Akshay who is adding to the stereotypes that shrieking and crying are only reserved for women. Towards the end of the film, Asif’s wife Priya (played by Kiara Advani) coaxes him to wear a ‘tabeez’ while telling him to treat it as a bangle that he had promised to wear! Well, if that’s not a sign of true love.
Laxmii doesn't just stop at bangles. Apparently, applying turmeric is also considered 'aurato wali harkate.'
How Do Women Confront Men? DRUNK!
Asif’s mother-in-law Ratna (Ayesha Raza) is a meek woman who has bowed to her husband Sachin’s (Rajesh Sharma) rage and severed all ties with their daughter for marrying a Muslim guy. They have taken offence to religion but do not bat an eyelid when it comes to the age difference between Priya and Asif. In an attempt to reconcile the duo with the family, Ratna invites them over to Daman for her 25th anniversary. Of course, Sachin fumes seeing Asif but this time Ratna has decided to speak up. And how does she show Sachin his place? By drinking herself silly.
Asif is horrified to discover that his mum-in-law has been drinking for a long time. Of late, we have come across a number of shows and films which subscribe to the warped notion that a woman has to drink, smoke and curse to show that she is strong and liberated enough. Remember Four More Shots Please? All the ‘successful’ ladies had to do there was throw on expensive clothes and declare how progressive they are by downing glasses of alcohol.
Songs = Objectifying Women
The opening credits of Laxmii feature a song wherein Akshay is seen beating ghouls and vampires in a dhobi ghat. If the costumes and makeup aren’t scarring enough, there suddenly appear a bunch of bikini-clad women ready to break a leg with Kumar. Fast forward to the end credits, but I am yet to figure out how instrumental those women were in driving the narrative.
Yet another headache-inducing song is ‘Burj Khalifa’, which abounds in questionable steps and phrases such as ‘hot manners.’ And, hold your breath, the song actually starts with Akshay telling Kiara, "You can't believe all the things I can buy for you". That's it. That IS the line.
Both the tracks take generous liberties to objectify women and are just examples of mindless, lazy writing.
Spoon-feeding, an Understatement
Raghava Lawrence leaves nothing, and I repeat nothing, to the imagination. Spoon-feeding is taken a notch higher when, while showing events on successive nights, ‘Next Night’ is spelt out in capital letters. It is also hammered into our heads that Laxmii, the transperson whose spirit possesses Asif, is ‘different’. As we get to know about Laxmii’s traumatic childhood, we come across an aged Muslim man and his specially-abled son. Lawrence groups the ‘minorities’ with a kind of tone-deaf apathy that is cringeworthy.
In a bid to prove how accepting the characters are, the film further ostracises them by telling us time and again that they are ‘not like the rest.’ Not to forget the hilarious summary of the movie, spoken with a dead expression by Kiara Advani, “We just give them (transgenders) names, emotionally they are the same as us.” Unfortunately, two-and-a-half hours must have been too short a duration to get the point across.
Transgenders? They 'Swing Hips' & Are 'Loud'
Laxmii’s transpeople are no different than what they are perceived by regressive minds. Asif’s transformation into Laxmii takes place at a saree shop. Laxmii can’t control her excitement when she sees a row of bright, red sarees. Ashwini (Priya’s sister-in-law) quickly points out that Priya hates ‘loud’ colours, only to be told by Asif that it’s for ‘her.’ Asif’s embodiment of Laxmii comes with wildly swinging hips, a thinned-out voice and loud gestures. There is absolutely zero similarity to Sharad Kelkar’s toned-down portrayal of the transperson.
At this point asking for representation and hoping to see a transperson play the character is like talking to the walls. But making the community a butt of jokes and punchlines robs us of the few words that we are left with. Kelkar’s Laxmii advocates for equal rights, education and respect for the community while Akshay’s Laxmii winks, claps, shouts and dances. What Laxmii successfully does is push the already abandoned community to the bottom of the well.
When the Trans Spirit Gets More Screen Time Than Kiara Advani
For someone whose husband is possessed by a spirit, we would have expected a more fleshed-out character. But Priya revels in the fact that Asif remembers their anniversary and is in a profession that strives to end superstitions. Not for once are we told what her occupation is. The trans spirit, sporting an unnaturally energetic wig, gets more screen time than Advani. The latter surfaces at times when Asif needs someone to tell him how right he is in everything he does.
Ghostbuster ‘Kumar’ Busts Logic
In case the writers of Laxmii were possessed by spirits and forgot how the film started, Akshay Kumar plays a ghostbuster, striving to cleanse society of blind faith. But the instant Laxmii's ghost possesses him, logic and his beliefs fly out of the window. It takes seconds for Asif to buy into Laxmii's story and start believing in the supernatural. He wears a thread blessed by a 'baba' and rescues the spirit from the bottom of the ocean!
Religious Harmony, What's That?
It certainly is a welcome step to have the lead actor, who is quite popular, play a Muslim character in an interfaith marriage. But that's it. When the script itself dates back centuries, you can only expect a kid to say, "Oho, they are still stuck on Hindu-Muslim?” There's no attempt whatsoever to dispel Islamophobia, rather the whole movie aggravates it. Ratna suddenly speaking in fluent Urdu and even the threat of bringing in a Catholic priest - these elements exist for mere laughs.
Let us not even go to the acting bit, because that does not even qualify for a movie like this. In short, there is absolutely no comedy in seeing the horror that is Laxmii unfold on screen. Mr Lawrence, ever heard of a film titled Stree? You might want to learn some lessons from that.
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