Rating: 3.5/5 Stars (Three and half stars)
Star cast: Monali Thakur, Shefali Shah, Ram Kapoor, Nagesh Kukunoor, Satish Kaushik
Director: Nagesh Kukunoor
What’s Good: The film portrays unadulterated reality which needs to be faced.
What’s Bad: Infusion of the contrived commercial essence dilutes the film’s matter in the second half mildly.
Loo break: None
Watch or Not?: Nagesh Kukunoor has mustered up the guts to make a film that will shock you to the extent of feeling repulsed by it. And still it is a story that is so deeply rooted in facts and tackled with a coarse realism that it must be heard. Lakshmi is a film that will have you on the edge of your seats, unsettling you with its disturbing subject matter, pushing you to run out of the film and yet the story is so powerful that it will adhere you to it. There are no two ways about the fact that it is a must watch film and Kukunoor has toppled all his previous works by making a film which is yet abhorrent and yet every bit courageous.
Lakshmi (Monali Thakur) is sold off into prostitution by her father. Acquired by her pimp Chinna (Nagesh Kukunoor) and his brother Reddy Garoo (Satish Kaushik), the girl is faced with living as a sex worker at a brothel. After two failed attempts to escape from the hell and a near fatal experience, the girl is rescued by a local NGO. She then decides to retaliate by filing a case against Reddy and Chinna.
The film is an honest and appalling story of her journey to emerge victorious against all odds and set a legal example in Andhra Pradesh.
Lakshmi Review: Script Analysis
Based on the true life story, the film’s script has probably been kept close to the facts surrounding it. A 13 year old is kidnapped and sold into prostitution. Smoothly socialized and trained into the art of selling herself every night, Lakshmi‘s spirit doesn’t suffer a beating despite drowning regularly in bottles of rum and living in haze of cigarette smoke. The transition of the innocent girl converting into a woman who must survive to satiate the lust of many men is spellbindingly done.
There are too many points in the film where the story seems to lose steam mainly in the second half. A lot of it coming off as unwarranted or unvalidated. But none of it matters when Kukunoor manages to enthuse a spirited narrative from a story that is heartbreakingly true and still not an isolated incident even today. Why Reddy Garoo’s helping hand decides to help Lakshmi in her case against her pimps and why his personal physician testifies in court against him are confusing loopholes, but we are so busy feeling a part of Lakshmi‘s success that these points are inevitably forgotten.
The story takes a while to fall in place with its initial hold being merely portraying the trauma of the protagonist. But when it gathers steam, it is nearly undefeated. Tertiary characters are etched with acute detailing. Lakshmi‘s caring roommate who protects her and still teaches her the art of seduction or her caring boss who slaps her and cares for her with equal ease too manage to make a mark in course of narrative. They aren’t just their to support the lead but have the dilemmas of their own life.
And in the end, the script wins for being able to evolve Lakshmi into an awe-striking character from the timid 14 year old. When she files a case against her offenders, she has the raw brutality in her wrath which manages to not allow her to lose focus on getting them convicted even when everything else goes against her. It is perhaps that audacious heroism that formed the crux of the film’s theme and what it attempts to preach.
Lakshmi Review: Star Performances
Monali Thakur isn’t an actress surely but she does a brilliant job in the film. Her natural innocence and childlike beauty is trapped wonderfully and comes handy in gaining an immediate sympathy factor of the audiences. You’ll want to jump into the film and drag her out from the grotesqueness she is imprisoned in and it is her charm that will make you feel helpless for her.
Shefali Shah is an actress whose caliber cannot be put to words. She is simply terrific. She is so supremely versatile even in the film that you don’t even realize when she shifts from being a caring mother to a lewd sex worker. In a particular scene the pimp ties her down and tries to burn her and her expressions of pain and horror are simply unmatchable.
Nagesh Kukunoor has always made a mark as a filmmaker but in this film he shows his flair for acting. Let’s just settle with the line that you’ll loathe him and he will make you want to throw up, filling you with disgust. It is quite commendable that he succeeds in what was expected of him.
Ram Kapoor in a small role manages to hold on graciously. His confidence as the lawyer who has to take on vicious sex mafias and fight a case solely on the basis of a 14 year old’s testimony is done well. There is a scene where he tells Lakshmi that he is very scared and she tells him even she is equally scared and they both giggle about it is one of the film’s most innocent moments. I doubt anyone except Kapoor could have brought in the nervousness and the humor with that much ease.
Lakshmi Review: Direction, Editing and Screenplay
Nagesh Kukunoor is afterall the one who walks in with maximum accolades for being able to show the valor in making a film which is absolutely unlike him. Usually known for the tenderness of delicate stories like Dor and Iqbal, he shows his true tenacity with Lakshmi. Toppling himself into an unsurpassable league he has conjured up the courage to make something so gutsy and marvelous that will get you so disturbed and yet you can’t back out from hearing what he has to tell.
Lakshmi Review: The Last Word
Lakshmi is in one word a heroic film. Not only for the story that Kukunoor has decided to tell but also the crude manner in which he tells us that makes a far reaching impact. This is a film that will penetrate into your psyche and horrify you to wits for being a vehemently powerful and intense story. I am going with a 3.5/5. More of such heart in your mouth stories are needed to bring about changes.
Check Out Lakshmi Trailer
Lakshmi releases on 21st March, 2014.
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