That Akshay Kumar’s Laxmii would have its share of problematic moments was something that we were pretty sure of since the very conception of this project. We called it out when the trailer was released. To begin with, Akshay Kumar should never have been cast for a trans woman’s role in the film. But then what’s done is done and what lies at our disposal right now is the film Laxmii, streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.
Well, we watched the film and in all honesty, it has turned out to be worse than we anticipated. The makers clearly got nothing on subtlety and right from the actors to the writers, everyone has done a lousy job here. The film follows the life of an inter-religion couple. And while the two are happy in their little world, Rashmi (Kiara Advani) is forever haunted with a lack, she misses her family who disowned her after she eloped with Asif (Akshay Kumar), a Muslim man.
And while you’d expect the plot to unfurl slowly and gradually, things happen in the most haphazard manner in the film. Within 10 minutes of the commencement, Rashmi’s family is ready to bury the hatchet and they are invited to the palatial family home in some unknown city where all supernatural plot unfolds. And while normally we’d have to restrain ourselves from spilling the beans and giving you spoilers, it isn’t the case with Laxmii’s review given that there aren’t any spoilers to give. In fact, for a horror film, there isn’t even a single jump scare in the film. And there are a hell lot of reasons to not watch Laxmii. Both the horror and comedy missing from this horror-comedy is just one of them. That said, here are eight other reasons why Laxmii is as problematic (also, dull) a movie as it gets:
To begin with, the makers did not do much to defend Laxmii when the film’s trailer started receiving all the backlash. From hiding the 'Like' and 'Dislike' button on YouTube to changing the title from 'Laxmmi Bomb' to 'Laxmii', the most they did was avert the crisis and look for quick fixes.
Now here’s something for those who still want to give it a chance and want to watch the film with an open mind: Within two minutes of the film’s opening, you come across the crudest use of semiotics ever! It is shown that the plot number of the haunted house where the trans woman Laxmii has been buried is six! Sad that the filmmakers casually chose to ignore the decades-old history of the slur words that have been used to insult trans people and how “chakka” or “number six” has been among them. The use of the number six to denote a plot belonging to trans people is so problematic that we would have legit booed the makers had we watched the film in a premiere show. Not kidding!
Now we gotta give it to the makers to not just involve trans folks but also womanhood in its problematic premise and dialogues. In one of the dialogues, Akshay says, “Agar is ghar mein bhoot hua toh maa kasam main churiyan pehen lunga.” Dude, calm down with your toxic masculinity! Also, bangles are beautiful and we wish you would have come up with some real punishment for being grossly wrong and getting possessed like that in your thick-headedness!
Yes, the filmmakers have really tried to project as they care about the trans folk and their sentiments. However, we really wish they had actually done it by doing as much as basic research and not writing stupid slogans like “Na mard, na aurat. Main dono hun” on walls. That’s legit the problem peeps! There are trans people who identify as men, there are trans people who identify as women, and there are trans people who identify as trans, it is as simple as that. To say they are nothing but they are both is to just perpetuate all the misunderstandings that have existed about them all this while. Kuch toh research kar lete yaar!
While we have maintained that Akshay should not have been given the role of a trans woman, for a moment here we’d like to give the makers some benefit of the doubt. They have maintained that Akshay is not a trans woman but a man possessed by a trans woman and thus the cast. Cool, we’ll make peace with that right after the makers give us the reasoning behind casting Sharad Kelkar as the trans woman Laxmii. This follows no logic like none at all. In fact, the filmmakers were even covered on the star factor front here by casting Akshay then why on Earth didn’t they cast an actual trans woman as Laxmii? So not done!
Among trans folks, especially hijras or aravanis (as they are called in Tamil Nadu), Lord Aravan (one of Arjun’s son from Mahabharata) is regarded as their patron God. It was for Aravan that Lord Krishna took the Mohini avatar and married him just a day before he died a heroic death. The Koovagam festival in Tamil Nadu is celebrated by trans folks for the commemoration of this moment from the Hindu epic. The climax scene in the Tamil version of Laxmii takes place in front of an Aravan statue. However, for the Hindi version, the filmmakers have taken the creative liberty of replacing it with an Ardhanarishvara (a composite form of the Hindu deities Shiva and Parvati) statue. Not only is this meddling with the trans culture but also with the trans identity because again the trans identity is projected as a mixture of male and female and not an entire identity in itself.
The film has dialogues referring to how a kinnar's curse can ruin a family. In the film a priest tells the film’s villain MLA Girja (played by Tarun Arora) that things are going bad for the family just 'coz he killed a kinnar. Bro, things should be going wrong for anyone who kills anyone and can we please stop propagating this nonsense about a transgender curse and shit like that?
Just like the film’s writers, the actors too have done a lousy job in the film. And while Akshay might have made huge claims about the role being “intense” and all, it does not translate for him on the screen. And don’t even get us started on Kiara. Rest assured, we now know why she was given just a handful of dialogues in Kabir Singh.
From shitty graphics to zero continuity, everything happens in the film in the most haphazard way. The film has nothing in the name of continuity and the eye soar of a song 'Burj Khalifa' has literally been smashed right in the middle as subtly as it takes to sew a yellow patch on a red cloth! Well, that actually is the entire film for you.
Lastly, it is important to understand that stereotyping is not representation. Both Akshay and Sharad throughout the film have been shown adapting the same old portraiture of a trans woman that we have been seeing in the Indian film industry for decades now. A hoard of trans women following the villain like zombies in the climax scene does not help either. Really, it's on you if you still choose to watch it!
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