Director: Raghava Lawrence
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Kiara Advani, Ayesha Raza Mishra, Rajesh Sharma, Sharad Kelkar, Manu Rishi Chadha, Tarun Arora
When director Raghava Lawrence decided to take one of Tamil cinema’s biggest franchises Kanchana/Muni to North India in the form of Laxmii and make it palatable to their taste, he made two big sacrifices- he replaced actor Kovai Sarala with Ayesha Raza Mishra, leaving the film devoid of any comedic essence. He also used the song Burj Khalifa in place of the song Karuppu Perazhaga, a song with much better beats, dance, and overall glamour.
In the film, the director also decided that the audiences would not mind the lack of continuity in the script, since there is dearth of enjoyable content during the lockdown. He made Akshay Kumar a ‘rational hero’ who is possessed by a ghost, hoping it would sail through.
However, the numerologically-accurate Laxmii pales in comparison to its Tamil counterpart in many places. There are no laughs and a few jump scares. Lemongrass tea becomes an important plot point and is often mentioned in the movie.
The movie makes one thankful for its release on Disney+ Hotstar, as it helps fast forward portions.
Tamil film Kanchana (2011) was a story of Raghava, a carefree man (child), who plays bet matches to earn money. During one of the instances where he plays at a haunted ground, a spirit attaches itself to Raghava and makes its way into his house, haunting the family.
The ghost ends up rendering a heart warming tale of herself, a transgender woman, looking to avenge her killers. Once she takes revenge, she and others who possess Raghava, leave. Raghava helps in making the world a better place, somehow.
Kanchana‘s success led to the creation of many more movies in the series, helping it become a phenomenally successful franchise in the South.
It is still common to see one of the several Kanchanas and/or Muni movies being played on television on festival days, proving its relevance.
Kumar’s Laxmii begins with his many science lessons. He plays Aasif- yes, a Muslim man- trying to bust myths and theories about ghosts. Aasif is married to Rashmi (Kiara Advani), a Hindu woman whose family is opposed to their marriage. On their third anniversary, Rashmi’s mother Ratna (Ayesha Raza Mishra) invites them home to Daman so that the families can patch up.
Here too, a game of cricket in haunted grounds ensues. Unlike in the Tamil film, where the blood from the stumps which pierce through dead transgender Kanchana’s body is washed in the bathroom, blood from Laxmii’s body is washed off on a plant in Rashmi’s parent’s house.
Although Rashmi’s father Sachin (Rajesh Sharma) is still reluctant about accepting a Muslim son-in-law, Sachin and Aasif attempt bonding over a glass of lemongrass chai. When the father-in-law rejects Aasif’s chai with leaves potent with Laxmii’s spirit, the hero instead drinks it unknowingly, becoming Laxmii.
Laxmii, the benevolent ghost, only wants to kill an evil politician and his family who had cheated her. Will Laxmii kill the politician who grabbed land from her and avenge the killing of her friends Abdul and Pankaj?
The movie has great special effects which make it far more visually appealing than Kanchana. It has a glossy overtone and sharper image on screen.
Much like Kanchana, Laxmii is an empowering character. A member of the transgender community, Laxmii helps Geetha, another transwoman, study and grow. Laxmii’s monologue about being stereotyped is powerful and elicits applause from the audience in the film and those watching the movie on screen.
The movie also has Kumar teaching us that aluminium and mercury chloride give us aluminium amalgam, an ash-like substance and that methyl orange and water give us red due to the solution becoming less acidic while disproving a godman. A key takeaway.
What does not work
Kumar, who professes science and pushes for rationality, does not seem to connect it anywhere towards the end. His transition, from a man of science to one who believes in a revenge-seeking ghost, is unclear. Although Asif’s entire belief system is broken down, he barely reacts, thus leaving us to wonder what his character is all about.
The movie attempts to shine light on Hindu-Muslim brotherhood with promising dialogues in the beginning, this only acts as a token two-minute conversation to bring Aasif close to Rashmi’s family. In the end, the filmmaker tries to show Aasif entering a temple to briefly take revenge on behalf of Laxmii, but it barely furthers the conversation on communalism although the film begins with that promise.
This angle seems to have been incorporated only to further some bizzare nationalistic agenda.
All transgender persons who appear in the film are stereotyped, although the message is to show that boundaries are broken. This ends up becoming thoroughly offensive.
Geetha, a transwoman who is adopted by Kanchana in the Tamil film, is given a definitive role. Her achievement as a student who ranks 1st in her class XII board examinations in the state is lauded. She goes abroad and hopes to return and set up a hospital that provides free medical treatment for members of the transgender community.
However, in the Hindi remake, we barely find Geetha saying anything substantial. Her work as a community leader is barely substantiated and her re-entry in the end of the movie is not as impactful as in the Tamil rendition.
Portions of the film, which are intended to have slapstick humour, are plain sad.
The songs in the movie appear out of nowhere and are barely catchy. The background score also distracts the viewers instead of scaring them.
Although Advani is the female lead in the movie, it would be the same terrible mess even if she is not in the picture.
In the end of the movie, Laxmii says she will be back. One can only hope that she does not.
Laxmii is streaming on Disney+ Hotstar
The Laxmii review is a Silverscreen India original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Silverscreenindia.com and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.