Mixing Genres is a tough task. If not approached correctly, or rather flawlessly, it might look like water mixed with oil. Even a layman could tell the difference. On a personal level, I never really liked the idea that genre could define any piece of art, and a logline or a short description would do better justice to it. Akshay Kumar starrer film, Laxmii has been labelled as a comedy horror film, though it majorly lacks the horror element and comedy quickly fades away after the first few scenes. What’s left is a social drama revolving around a ghost that came back from the dead to take revenge. Now, you can call it a social drama or just drama or a thriller or a revenge story and still these are just tags to the story.
Laxmii (earlier titled as Laxmii Bomb) is written and directed by Raghava Lawrence, who had previously made the same film in the Tamil language. Laxmii marks his debut in the Hindi film industry but he isn’t a debutant director, so all the avoidable flaws in the films can’t be ignored.
Many critics are of the opinion, and it might be true that the film Laxmii is inspired from a certain Hollywood film, in which I am neither interested nor wish to explore (that’s the job of a gossip column writer). This article is solely written from the point of view of what’s on-screen and nothing other than that is covered.
The opening sequence of the film establishes the presence of a ghost in a deserted plot. The neighbors are aware of the eeriness of that certain piece of land and thus going there is strictly prohibited.
The story then jumps to its protagonist, Asif (Akshay Kumar) who does not believe in god. He believes it is his duty to unveil all the saints who feeds on people’s fear of ghosts and exploit them. Asif is not on talking terms with his in-laws because he married a Hindu woman, Rashmi (Kiara Advani) being a Muslim himself. They ran away from the house and married without the consent of her parents. On their marriage anniversary, Rashmi’s mother calls her, inviting her to their house, to celebrate her parents’ 25th marriage anniversary, together.
When Asif reaches his in-law’s house, he isn’t happily welcomed by Rashmi’s father, Sachin (Rajesh Sharma) and the squabble between them keeps the comedy intact.
Asif’s in-law’s house is just beside the barren plot, where the presence of ghost was established in the prologue. Asif, unaware of the fact, and a non-believer of any such paranormal elements, visit the plot, to play cricket on it with the other kids. Asif’s actions lead to consequences, and he gets possessed by the ghost.
The story further explores how Asif gets rid of this spirit inside his body and why the spirit is roaming on the earth surface, in the first place. The subject is socially connected to the basic theme of the film, which I felt, was fetched very late.
Balancing Sensitive Theme
Laxmii is based on a social issue. Many of you might be aware of the fact that it encompasses a group of people in our society called Transgenders. In a country like India, where many are resistant to change, making a film on any sensitive topic is bound to hurt the sentiments of at least a lakh in a million and thus, balancing the subject matter, in a way that it doesn’t imply any wrong intentions is a tricky part. Though the makers have done it precisely, there were certain key elements of filmmaking that they missed entirely.
Applause to the VFX
You might get many such moments in Bollywood films to appreciate the VFX used in films. Films like Tumbad really set some high bars, while that of Bahubali looked fake for most parts. Laxmii doesn’t have a great Vfx, but it is cleaner than many films that are supported by supernatural elements. On a Television or mobile screen, it’s hard to notice any flaws, as this movie will mostly be watched on OTT platforms.
A lot many characters in the film, like the one related to the ghost and it’s a past life, is one suffering from cerebral palsy. It could have been avoided as it served no purpose, other than to create melodramatic sympathy. Similarly, Asif’s brother-in-law Deepak who was placed in the film to support the comic element never served its purpose, rather his acts seemed fake or completely vague. Even the protagonist came too late in the story (if the ghost is not to be considered the only negative force in the film). The main villain, as per the definition of the Bollywood, is unpresent and his antagonism remains unaffecting majorly.
Raghava Lawrence is not a debutant director, at least in the field of filmmaking. He has previously made the same film in the Tamil Language. I haven’t seen the original version, but the Hindi one really lacked some key direction skills. Not going to scrutinize the scenes in particular, but the opening sequence and a flashback sequence in the middle of the film seemed really amateurish. The flashback scene looked like a Television Sequence where everything was narrated through dialogues and all the sympathy was imposed on the viewers rather than making them feel the emotion. The treatment of the flashback scene was literally rushed as if the director wanted to get rid of the backstory as soon as possible and the same was visible in how it was shot. Everything seemed vague and phony.
Laxmii based on an important social topic, had a great intention. But Filmmaking is not about intention but sculpting the emotion. Laxmii failed to do so. It underlined the required social topics but in a way that would be easily ignored or forgotten by the people to whom it is targeted. Thus, all good intentions might go down the drain. Akshay Kumar really seemed like creating Bhool Bhulaiyaa magic again on screen, with his excellent comic timing and goofiness. Though he isn’t an actor who would shine, even without a proper direction and more importantly, a well-written script, and thus his own charm and magic were overshadowed by the key flaws of the film.
I really understand Bollywood’s obsession to create universally accepted films that are both entertaining and message provide, but for that, they have to sell films rather than plot or ideas to the audience. They might have to invest more on characters, screenplay writing and direction. In their own corporate tone, it would be better if they create better products and not just glossy packaging.
Laxmii is streaming on Disney+Hotstar.
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