During the film, there are moments when you are unable to watch the scene. The word for such a scene is raw and there are quite a few such scenes in Nagesh Kukunnor’s Lakshmi. Yes, this rawness and reality with a bit of drama makes Lakshmi an must-watch, but it is not without its share of drama and you feel Kukunnor was too overwhelmed by the tale to make a convincing film. However, it still captures a tale of horror, grit and determination well enough.
Director: Nagesh Kukunnor
Actors: Monali Thakur, Nagesh Kukunnor, Satish Kaushik, Shefali Shah, Flora Saini, Ram Kapoor, Vibha Chibber and Gulfam Khan
Music: Tapas Relia
Young, just about 14 years old, Lakshmi (Monali Thakur) is being brought to Hyderabad by Chinna (Nagesh Kukunnor). She is thrown back in harsh reality of brothel life, after being raped by Reddy Garu (Satish Kaushik). At the brothel, she is thrown in the ‘business’ by the head madam Jyoti (Shefali Shah) and Swarna (Flora Saini). Though kind, the harsh reality makes Jyoti make sure Lakshmi get down to business. Lakshmi tries to run away, but each time, the punishment gets worse. Lakshmi’s silver lining comes in the form of social worker Uma Didi and her colleague. Lakshmi stands up against the Reddy brothers and takes to the court for justice, with the help of a lawyer Avinash (Ram Kapoor). The rest can be guessed.
As said earlier, raw in parts is the word to describe Lakshmi. It is an honest attempt to show what a segment of India and its women have to go through. We fail to see the customer living next door or the pimp/madam, making thousands of helpless Lakshmis victims of their lust. It is unnerving to see scenes like where Jyoti checks Lakshmi’s wounds in her private parts or when, in a day, Lakshmi has go to the bathroom to wash every time a customer is finished. But it feels like a dramatised version of a documentary. Also, during the second half, Kukunnor allows total filmy situations to overtake his directorial touch. Reddy Garu and his partner in crime Radha Rao is seen trying to bribe Lakshmi, emotionally and financially. A witness appears like a trump card to change the situation. The story is let down by a pale screenplay and script.
Nagesh Kukunnor has lost some of his touch. He has given us some touching characters and scenes. But the control over the screenplay could have been better like in the court scenes. The technical support is just ho-hum, though the music beautifully lends its support in the narration. Monali Thakur’s eyes, innocently gorgeous face, confidence, body language and expressions all are perfect. She becomes Lakshmi. Shefali’s Jyoti knows she has no way out but still helps get Lakshmi out. Her acting shows that pain and utter helplessness. On the other hand, Kaushik becomes Reddy Garu, the big player in the prostitution racket but has a facade of respectability. You are repulsed whenever he is seen on the screen. While actors like Flora Saini, Ram Kapoor, Gulfam Khan and Vibha Chibber shine in their small roles, Kukunnor as Reddy’s sleazy younger brother Chinna is a damp squib. He looks tired.
Lakshmi’s strength is its reality and some fabulous acting, but it is imperfect in terms of a straight ‘in your face’ storytelling methods. Watch it if you can handle its rawness!
Photo Credit: www.theindianrepublic.com and digitalmovietune.com