Synopsis – The film deals with a ghost seeking vengeance for being wronged and haunts everyone who is staying in the house.
My Take – Despite earning fame as an action star in the 90s, over the past three decades, there is no denying of the fact that no actor has undertaken such massive shifts in their career trajectory like Akshay Kumar. While his 2000s filmography was mainly dominated by comedies, with a few romances and family affairs thrown in, his biggest surprise shift came in the 2010s with the Bollywood superstar choosing to mainly star in socially responsible films albeit with the necessary sugar coating of commercial ingredients to reach a wider audience.
Hence, it made sense when he decided to star in the Hindi remake of the second installment of writer, director and star Raghava Lawrence‘s Tamil horror comedy Muni series, Muni 2: Kanchana (2011). A film which aimed to raise awareness about the third gender and attempts to highlight the importance of their inclusivity. On paper, the idea is great, with dollops of horror and comedy thrown in, and a genre in which Akshay Kumar found immense success back in 2007 in the form of Bhool Bhulaiyaa, expectations were obviously sky-high!
Unfortunately, even with all these factors in its favor, the final film falters at every step. Having seen Kanchana years ago, and dismayed by the loud nature of the narrative, I certainly hoped that as a director Raghava Lawrence would tone down the film to meet the sensibilities of the Hindi audience, especially the younger generation. However, here despite the nine years gap, director Raghava Lawrence stays faithful to his original, in tone and script, with some slight changes here and there.
Sure, logic and sensibilities were never expected from such kind of a film, but what surprised me was how scare free, unfunny and inexplicable the final product turned out to be. With a star like Akshay Kumar headlining his project, this could have been Raghava Lawrence‘s big-ticket entry into the world of Hindi films, an industry where his contemporaries like Prabhudeva have found a comfortable home (irrespective of the quality of film he churns out), but alas he misses and how.
The story follows Asif (Akshay Kumar), a Muslim businessman, who while living a comfortable life with his wife, Rashmi (Kiara Advani) and his young orphan nephew, also moonlights with an organization that debunks the myths around ghosts, evil spirits and anything supernatural.
His life takes an interesting turn when Rashmi’s mother Ratna (Ayesha Raza Mishra) invites the two to attend their 25th anniversary wedding celebration, and use it as a chance to seek retribution with Rashmi’s father Sachin (Rajesh Sharma), who hasn’t spoke to her since she eloped with Asif following his disapproval of their interfaith alliance, about three years ago. However, during the visit, Asif starts behaving erratically, which leads the family to speculate whether he has been possessed by an evil spirit.
The problem with the film is not that it is mindless. The problem is that the film, despite being promoted as a horror comedy, is neither scary nor funny. The film is too haphazard in its storytelling to leave any sort of an impact, despite playing to the gallery. What may have seemed funny nine years ago clearly fails to make the cut today. In the garb of being woke, relevant and funny at the same time- the film becomes a 141 minutes long cringe-fest where the jokes are not funny, the horror is too predictable and a theme that tries to appease too many people at the same time without making any impact whatsoever.
The film tries being a satire of sorts against obsolete customs and rituals, but the effort defeats itself owing to the sheer plasticity of the narrative. Here, director Lawrence makes everything too obvious. There is nothing left for the audience to interpret. There is the token tribute speech about a transgender deserving the same love, affection, and rights as anyone else. But throughout the film, the character of Laxmii appears violent, masculine, and angry.
To be fair, the makers nail the confusion experienced by certain growing children who struggle to identify with one gender. But Laxmii, having identified as a woman, problematically displays masculine traits in her actions, thoughts and threats.
The plot not just tries to talk of the third gender but it also slyly makes its leading man a Muslim to appease the actor’s wider fan base. In director Lawrence‘s world- all communities live harmoniously. Also, the conflict point in the flashback is not that strong as the villain is weak. Due to this, the film looks pale in many areas. There is no seriousness in many key scenes and because of this, I lost interest half way through.
The film relies completely on Akshay Kumar to carry its baggage, which he does commendably. While some may find his performance jarring, in my opinion keeping in tone with the film, Akshay Kumar ably plays both the parts. Kiara Advani doesn’t have much to do here other than look pretty, which is undoubtedly does. However, Sharad Kelkar is the surprise package of the film and is stunning as Laxmii in the flashback mode. Though he has less screen time, Sharad does extremely well with his feminine expressions.
The supporting cast comprising of Rajesh Sharma, Ayesha Raza Mishra, Manu Rishi Chadha, Ashwini Kalsekar, and Mir Sarwar do well in their respective roles. However, the antagonists played by Prachee Shah Paandya, Adhvik Mahajan and Tarun Arora (who incidentally played the same role in 2019’s Muni 4: Kanchana 3) have the weakest characterizations which ends up affecting their performances. On the whole, ‘Laxmii’ is a shoddy comedy horror let down by it’s over the top tone and inconsistency.
Directed – Lawrence Raghavendra
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 144 minutes