I was working on a documentary on the lives of the children of sex workers in Delhi. When I came across this film first. The trailer of Lakshmi Movie seemed disturbing but promising. So, I thought I might watch it for reference purposes but dismissed the idea as soon as it came.
Lakshmi Movie – A Bitter Truth of Real World
I was never aware of the film’s presence until the day I saw its trailer on YouTube- I do not remember viewing or hearing about any of its promotional campaigns. The film was neither a high grosser at the box office.
If I were, to be honest (which I will be throughout this article), sadly I don’t think anybody would willingly watch Lakshmi keeping in view its dark depiction and a few nerve-wracking scenes of a filthy world. that still operates and thrives in the country- which is exactly why I initially thought it should be made a mandatory watch.
Nagesh Kukunoor, the director of the film, plays the character of Chinna Reddy, who is a pimp and takes care of his ‘investments’. Ram Reddy (played by Satish Kaushik) and Chinna together run Dharam Vilas, a brothel disguised as a girls’ hostel, where they take in girls, the younger the better, with or without consent.
Chinna buys women, sells women, and in between does everything immoral with them.
However, the film which could have been a path-breaking depiction of the inhumane world of human trade active in smaller towns, that runs beneath the multilayered sophistication of the larger cities, fails to offer anything new to the viewer. Lakshmi (played by Monali Thakur) chronicles the story of an innocent 14-year old who is abducted from her village in Andhra Pradesh and forced into the world of prostitution.
Is there violence in the film? Yes.
Is there a cliched dance sequence? Yes (on an equally cliched song – choli ke peechhe kya hai)
Does she ultimately testify against the traffickers? Yes.
Isn’t that how all sex trafficking movies go? YES!
The Story Line
While at first glance, you may think it is yet another story of a girl who is sexually abused against her will, a tale we have all heard numerous times. But here is where Lakshmi Movie is different other similar films.
While Kukunoor’s portrayal of the girls in a brothel is nothing new or revelatory, the film often bombards you with extreme graphic violence- some of which will make you cringe. A particular scene showed a bruised Lakshmi, not even conscious of her being, lying with her legs open and serving six to seven clients. In another scene when Jyothi helps Lakshmi move, to be rescued to a Mahila Ashram, an unconscious Lakshmi sits up and instinctively lifts her shirt assuming it’s yet another customer and she is to perform for the night.
The film is undeniably dark and follows an assumable plot. Chinna Reddy physically and sexually exploits the inmates of Dhaṛam Vilas. There is sex (lots of it) which however is restricted to men locking doors and removing their clothes. And there’s also an unnecessarily stretched shot of Satish Kaushik undressing himself to the bare minimum, revealing an extremely unflattering body. Kukunoor is very average in his appearance and acting, just like the rest of the cast. And the dialogues are in time. It is again brushed with a very twisted dialect of Hyderabad that seems more dragged than real, or required for that matter.
It is a shocker that Lakshmi comes from the same director who has given us some magical stories like Dor and Iqbal.
While I found the plot very average. So, The Cast deserves the credit for this. Kukunoor is hardly recognizable as Chinna. It wasn’t until I read about it on the internet that I knew it was the usually clean-shaven director playing the part. Monali Thakur as Lakshmi proved her mettle; though she did not physically look the part however her enactment of a wide-eyed teenager was fascinating. She constantly had a grip on her character. which covered up for her inappropriate look, making it relatively believable.
Jyothi (Shefali Shah) was Dharam Vilas’ caretaker and in true terms the caretaker of the plot. Her acting demonstrates her fine experience in dramatics and often outshines others on the screen. Ram Kapoor also makes a small, however integral appearance in the film as advocate Avinash who fights Lakshmi’s case. However, the one character I found truly believable and perfectly executed was that of Suwarna (played by Asha Saini) She was the best friend everybody has. She took care of a bruised Lakshmi, nursing her back to good health and tutored her on the traits and tricks of the trade. Her clothes, body language, dialogues, makeup, and expressions were everything that made me aware of the filthy world she was depicting- a true winner in terms of character portrayal.
Lakshmi Movie – Need of the Hour
I guess all we want at the end of the day is to create something that will last. All we want is to reach and touch people with our ideas. With our thoughts that refuse to die even after months
I think all we need to do is something worth remembering.
And I think that is what was in director Nagesh Kukunoor’s mind with his film Lakshmi.
While the film has an average plot and doesn’t deliver as creatively or justifiably as it could. Though, What is important is that films like Lakshmi are the need of the hour. Lakshmi Movie is a must watch. They are important to awaken people to a dark world that still lurks behind shadows. It is the world we know but does not want to hear about.