NOTE ABOUT SPOILERS: Oh come on, this isn’t an 8pm speech that you’d expect terrifying twists from and end up sleeping in front of an ATM at midnight.
We sort of knew that Laxmii and intelligence will be as related as Kamala Harris and Kamala Pasand are, and Akshay Kumar’s latest film doesn’t let you down. Starting with plot and character to dialogues and setting, Raghava Lawrence’s Hindi remake of his 2011 blockbuster Kanchana is almost screaming to recognise Akshay Kumar as some sort of a human paracetamol who’ll ‘fix’ the lives of all marginalised people in the country.
No one and nothing has ever claimed to save women and helped them fly as much as Akshay Kumar’s on screen characters have. If I was a sanitary napkin ad, I’d feel very threatened by his existence right about now. So as per the familiar script of his films of middle age, he is introduced in a scene where he saves a woman from the clutches of a fake ‘baba’ who had declared her a witch. He realises that the woman’s husband has been beating her from the wounds on her face and yet, reunites her with him after gently chiding the man. “Thank you for saving my life and ghar,” the woman whimpers as the scene melts into a dance number where Akshay Kumar is going all ‘baba doll main sone di’ with a bunch of ghosts and exorcists.
Kumar’s introductory scene becomes a symbol of the gap between Laxmii’s sanctimonious tone and the reality of this country — we all know that wife beating douchebags don’t turn into beanbags just because Akshay Kumar slapped their backs. A real-life woman like the one in the scene has a better chance at having a ‘ghar’ with a mosquito than with a violent man, but in an Akshay Kumar film, all she needs is a lecture by the star.
Trans rights activist Kris Chudawala pointed out that Kanchana led to a bout of toxic transphobia when it was released. In that mothballed, awful film too, the protagonist Raghava — played by Raghava Lawrence himself — was a man who was so terrified of ghosts that he slept in the same room as his mother, and would jump into the laps of people at the very mention of a ghost. The director probably hoped that the sight of a grown man being carried around by a complaining old woman like a child would elicit humour. However warped, it at least showed the protagonist as a man who had just about regular fears, superstitions and failings. In Laxmii, the director changes the blueprint of the character completely, turning Kumar into a relentlessly macho, patronising man who claims he will wear bangles if anyone proves the existence of a ghost to him.
Asif is married to Rashmi, whose father has disowned her because she has married a Muslim man. Now Kumar got into the crosshairs of Twitter’s love jihad theory salesmen because Laxmii seems to suggest that marrying a Muslim man is like marrying almost any man and the relationship’s challenges for women include looking excited at cushions and mugs as anniversary gifts. It did not matter to these men and women that their lordship himself sat down with Kumar to share intimate details about what he does when he gets a cold.
Now the film treats Asif’s father-in-law Sachin as some sort of a cute, grumpy man who just casually threw out his daughter from his life like she is a spent tea bag. Considering that an average human puts more thought into throwing a tea bag out than the makers put into writing Kiara Advani’s character, who can blame poor Sachin? It takes a special kind of stupidity to try to sell a bigoted man as funny and adorable while he goes around being a grade A jerk to his daughter and Muslim son-in-law. After this film, I can see diarrhea and chubti jalti ghamorian queuing up in front of Akshay Kumar’s door for a makeover to look cute.
Anyway, Asif gets into a namaz posture and asks this bigot to accept him as the son-in-law. Oh before that, he also, somewhat unwillingly, is pushed into singing at a jagrata, thereby redeeming himself in the eyes of this troll-in-law. I have a sneaking suspicion that Sachin’s real day job involved waiting all day till Swara Bhaskar tweets and then posting abuses on the comments thread from seven different handles with peacock feather DPs. Since Asif was busy being ’seedhe sadhe Akshay Akshay” around him and was becoming a distraction from his work, Sachin forgives him. The film doesn’t go into these revealing details, though Sachin seems like just that kind of a man.
You’d have probably forgotten by now that there’s a real ghost involved and not just the one of stupidity haunting the film. In Kanchana, the ghost is dragged into the house after the protagonist Raghava unknowingly ends up in the haunted field where the corpses of a transwoman, a Muslim man and his son are buried and prepares for a cricket match. In Laxmii, something similar happens but Akshay Kumar runs to the field with a bunch of kids to lecture them about the superstition around ghosts. I suspect the ghost takes over Asif’s body because there was no way he would stop being a Mann Ki Baat on legs otherwise. But the film has an elaborate story on how the ghost plans to avenge her murderers and would like us to believe that. Why the tokenism is futile and instead endangers the lives of transpersons has been explained by Chudawala in this article.
Laxmii has as much clue about any of the subjects it touches upon as the extra ‘g’ has about its place in ‘Bigg Boss’. The world would still be a cold and bigoted place without Akshay Kumar slapping us with a Burj Khalifa of nonsense in it.