India Insight

Movie Review: Lakshmi

March 21, 2014

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Nagesh Kukunoor’s “Lakshmi” is supposed to be a no-holds-barred, searing look at the world of human trafficking and prostitution. The protagonist, a wide-eyed, innocent girl of 14 is sold to a pimp, raped several times, and forced into the flesh trade.

When Lakshmi finally gets the courage to fight back, she finds that the law is not necessarily on her side and the rot is deep inside the system. Kukunoor, who in the past has made films that demonstrated ample sensitivity and emotions, seems to have let go and concentrate merely on shocking and titillating the viewer.

Under the guise of portraying the plight of these women, Kukunoor focuses on blood, gore and stomach-churning violence. He plays a pimp in the film, one who assaults women at will with his weapon of choice — a wooden plank with nails attached.

There are hardly any insights into what causes the initially unwilling Lakshmi to turn into a girl who practises seductive gazes and slathers herself with cheap make-up, before gathering courage to fight the men who inflicted so much pain.

Ultimately, instead of feeling for Lakshmi and her fellow sufferers, you are disgusted and weary of the director’s vision. Scenes of extreme torture and clichéd characters disguised as social issues do not make a good film.

Of the cast, Shefali Shah stands out as the mistress of the brothel that Lakshmi is brought to. Ram Kapoor is charming in a role reminiscent of Sunny Deol in “Damini”. But the rest — including Kukunoor, Satish Kaushik and debutante Monali Thakur – are below par, never rising above the tacky script and dialogue.

“Lakshmi” might seem like one of those films that are supposed to be effective and powerful. Instead, it only confirms the decline of a director who once gave us sensitive films such as “Dor” and “3 Deewarein”.

(Follow Shilpa on Twitter at @shilpajay. This article is website-exclusive and cannot be reproduced without permission)

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