Laxmii (2020)

Name: Laxmii

Year of release: 2020

(Adaptation of 2011 Tamil film Kanchana, directed by Lawrence Raghavendra and Balakrishnan Thevar)

Writers: Farhad Samji (adapted screenplay), Sparsh Khetarpal

Cast: Akshay Kumar, Kiara Advani, Sharad Kelkar

Two days into its release, the film Laxmii was dismissed as “trash” and “nonsense” by most reviewers. It was called a terrible film on every count – be it the story, its execution, performance and dialogues.

We are in complete agreement with this assessment, only that the largely left-wing film critics have steered clear of commenting on the film’s worst part – its blatant Islamic and anti-Hindu agenda.

The only saving grace is that the film is not half as sophisticated as Aamir Khan’s pk, and families are unlikely to sit through its entire length.

In one of the early scenes, we learn that Rashmi (played by Kiara Advani) had eloped with Aasif (played by Akshay Kumar) three years ago but the happily married couple has not been accepted by her bigoted parents till date. Aasif’s brother and his wife died in an accident leaving a child with him and Rashmi.

The child has no role in the story and disappears without explanation as soon the film gets busy with ghosts, but serves a crucial purpose. When Aasif reveals that Rashmi’s father is reluctant to accept him because of his religion, the precocious child exclaims – “Wo abhi bhi Hindu-Muslim mein atkey huey hain! (They are still stuck at Hindu-Muslim!)”

A message, loud and clear, is sent to the audience that Hindu parents opposing elopement of their 20-something daughters, particularly with Muslim men, are dogmatic and bigots who have not evolved since partition.

A previous scene where Aasif exposes a Hindu Tantrik as a fraud who fools gullible people in the name of pret aatmas sets the tone and narrative for rest of the film – supremacy of green over saffron.

So when a Hindu family abandons their minor son for displaying effeminate manners, an Abdul chacha adopts him and gives him a respectable life as a kinnar. When a molestation happens in a Hanuman temple, the Abdul chacha saves the kinnar from taking law into her hands.

When saffron-clad sadhus fail to free Aasif of the vengeful ghost of Laxmii, Muslim pirs and fakirs do it easily. When Laxmii’s ghost finds herself unable to enter a Devi temple to extract revenge from her killers, Aasif does the honours.

The film is a tale of revenge of a transgender woman named Laxmii from a couple who illegally occupied her land and killer her. It is a remake of 2011 Tamil film Kanchana, directed by and featuring Raghava Lawrence.

Perhaps nothing gives away the religious agenda of the makers of Laxmii better than the subtle changes made to the original Kanchana.

In Kanchana, the hero is named Raghava who spends his time wooing Priya, sister of his sister-in-law. In Laxmii, the hero is Aasif who is married to Rashmi. Later, Rashmi’s father realises his mistake of rejecting Aasif.

In Kanchana, Raghava fears ghosts and turns to Hindu gods when feeling scared. In Laxmii, Aasif exposes Hindu sadhus as frauds. In a song-and-dance sequence, Aasif disrobes ghosts to reveal their saffron lowers.

In Laxmii, the one who is alcoholic is Rashmi’s mother. Abdul chacha sips only tea.

In Kanchana, the kinnar is a devotee of Bhagwan. Just before she is informed that her land has been illegally occupied, she is garlanding her deity. That scene has been dropped in Laxmii.

In Kanchana, the villain couple visits a baba who is clad in white. In Laxmii, this baba wears saffron with Jai Shri Ram loudly printed on it. He also readily agrees to help the couple despite their criminal past.

In Kanchana, the ghost of the kinnar pleads to Bhagwan Narsimha to let her inside the temple in the climax. The ghost tells Narsimha to destroy her if she is on the side of adharma but make way for her if she is on the side of dharma. Narsimha chooses the latter.

Kanchana’s ghost enters the temple, catches the villain but, to maintain the sanctity of the place, drags him out and kills him.

If Kanchana has a feel of Nehru-style secularism, Laxmii is laced with Jinnah-like open communalism. If Kanchana has a ‘good Hindu-bad Hindu-good Muslim’ theme, Laxmii has a ‘bad Hindu-worse Hindu-saviour Muslim’ propaganda.

All Hindu-friendly scenes of Kanchana have been discarded like waste in Laxmii. In addition, Laxmii promotes Muslim occult practitioners. We would have dismissed it as silly if we did not know its real life consequences.

Laxmii’s ghost kills people in a most brutal fashion as almost all such scenes are lifted from cult Hollywood classics such as The Exorcist and superhit films like ‘It’.

Talking of ‘inspirations’, we must also mention the promotional song ‘Burj Khalifa’ that, needless to say, appears out of context. Filmed in Dubai, the song has sets blatantly lifted from Loco Contigo released last year with dress and dance steps lifted from another hit song Uptown Funk released in 2014.

Laxmii is a bad film, but with a superstar like Akshay Kumar leading it, the film will reach huge audiences and so will its religious propaganda.

This review was first published here.

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Swati Goel Sharma is a journalist with close to 10 years of experience with India’s leading publications such as The Times of India and Hindustan Times. She writes mainly on issues concerning the deprived and marginalised groups, women and children.

Website | + posts

Against trafficking, social injustice, cruelty. Promotes Vedas, Yoga, Sanskrit. Data scientist. IIT-IIM. Founder – Sewa Nyaya Utthan Foundation, Gems of Bollywood.

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