Asif, who does not believe in ghosts and evil spirits, is possessed by one, of a transgender, called Laxmii. What starts thereafter is a journey of realisation and revenge
Akshay Kumar as Asif in Raghava Lawrence’s Laxmii is a believer in science. He swears, in an over-the-top style, ‘Jis din bhoot dekh loonga, choodi pehen loonga, choodi.’ Bread-crumbing does not get more direct and in-your-face than this, and also loud, overdramatic and racist. From the word go, the film plays on the suspension of belief, and at times, even the complete absence of common sense, which the writer and the filmmaker expect the audience to buy into.
Kiara Advani plays Rashmi, Asif’s wife who married him against her father’s will. Her parents are expected to celebrate 25 years of their marriage. Bam! Rashmi has a brother and sister-in-law (Manu Rishi Chadha and Ashwini Kalsekar, wasted) who look almost as old as the parents themselves. The mother (Ayesha Raza Mishra, completely over the top) drinks and it’s acceptable to the family (probably a way of saying that they are progressive) but the daughter marrying a guy from a different community is not. No judgements there but the presentation of several of these little facts is so over-the-top that you can’t help but wonder what is this world of the film supposed to be.
The father speaks Hindi, reads a Gujarati newspaper wearing a pajama, and is always asking for lemongrass ki chai. Why? Because later, that chai will open doors for the supposed chaos that we’ve decided to subject ourselves to in this film. Very unpredictable! Papa dearest is against his daughter’s marriage to Asif, but it takes Asif only two sentences to change his mind. That simple? Why wait three years then? These are just a few instances to tell you how deeply flawed the remake of Kanchana is.
The film opens with Asif, a non-believer in ghosts and spirits, fighting people in a village-like set-up to protect a woman who is being treated by a baba, suspecting that she is possessed. He scientifically proves how the baba is conning those people. That done, the film then focuses on establishing that he’s extremely romantic – his wife Rashmi, played by Kiara, provides proof of that. He agrees to even visit her family to mend her relations with them. Check!
While in Daman at his in-law’s house (a huge property for people who don’t supposedly have an income except for a son who sings at Mata ki Chowkis, but we’re constantly hammered that it was built with Rashmi’s father’s hard-earned money), Asif heads to an open ground in the neighbourhood, which is considered to be haunted. He comes back with cricket stumps that have probably kissed a dead body six feet under the ground. Strange, he doesn’t realize that for a long time.
Gradually, he starts showing signs of being possessed by a woman, which eventually turns out to be a transgender, while his ma-in-law and sister-in-law pick up pieces of that. Calling the tabelewala a cow-man, using badly-timed puns and punches, playing on advertising catch-lines, and men slapping each other show the writer’s sense of comedy. Displaying over the top reactions from characters all throughout, hair flying in the air, screaming characters and a supposedly eerie sounding background score in most parts of the film were meant to create humour and fear. Both boxes remained unchecked till the end of the film.
Akshay Kumar is the only reason one would tune in to Laxmii on an expensive OTT platform. His dedication and his effort to slip into a loosely-written character, and carry the punctured screenplay on his shoulders are evident. His energy, passion and conviction in a part that’s been so thoughtlessly put together are commendable. Sharad Kelkar as Laxmii is the other plus in this film, despite lacking support from the writing table. While he only appears for a brief period, and the villains in the story for an even briefer period, he plays his part well.
In the technical departments, the music of the film is largely forgettable. Action scenes look borrowed from the South Indian films that run repeatedly on TV channels. The VFX is top-grade and so is the choice of actors. The only hiccup is that the director couldn’t put most resources to good use.
Expectations are like double-edged swords. They keep an actor going and they also weigh him down at times. They can make the audience bloat with pride when he or she delivers, and squirm with disgust and disbelief when he or she is criminally wasted in a story that didn’t need retelling in the first place.