Filmmaker Nagesh Kukunoor who's best known for films like Hyderabad Blues, Iqbal and Dor had his luck running dry for quite some time at the box-office and as well as with critics. Not only were his movies like Aashayein, Mod etc. tanking at the theaters but were also being criticized for being poorly executed. However, the maker is back in a space he is best known for with Lakshmi.
Dealing with the harsh realities of human trafficking and child prostitution, the movie is about a 13 year old girl Lakshmi (Monali Thakur) who is kidnapped and sold into prostitution. Thrown into a ghastly world, Lakshmi gets raped, brutally battered repeatedly by men like her pimp China (Nagesh Kukunoor) and the horrid customers he sends her way. But the most grisly conditions don't break her will to retaliate and after repeated attempts for survival she finally makes her way for a better life.
There's hardly any subtlety at play in Lakshmi. Nagesh Kukunoor, who brings to fore the plaguing issues of child prostitution and illegal human trafficking that yet are to be eradicated from the rural heartlands of India, relies heavily on shock value to leave the audience with a gut-wrenching experience, assumedly with a hope to bring a change. After all, it's a story based on true events.
Most of the gruesome scenes are very in-your-face but you wonder after a point whether such graphical representation is actually required? Couldn't the audience be left to imagine the worst? Moreover, it's the crudity of the language, mannerisms of the actors and situation that Nagesh shows his prowess in, however, the rest of the portions get amateurishly handled. One expects nail-biting courtroom drama but owing to lackadaisical dialogues it loses the punch.
Lakshmi works best not just for its shocking story of depraved and immoral humans but also for its casting and acting. Singer turned actress Monali Thakur is spot on in her debut film. Her childlike face brilliantly juxtaposes with the crudity of the brothels and viciousness of men.
While the debutant actress impresses, you have to watch the seasoned actors like Satish Kaushik and Shefali Shah perform. Satish Kaushik's portrayal of the brothel owner is absolutely brilliant and so is the case with Nagesh Kukunoor who maliciously plays a pimp. Shefali Shah too is in top form while Ram Kapoor as a lawyer is passable.
To sum it up, Lakshmi is a story that's disturbing, shocking but a courageous effort. Watch this movie for stellar performances.
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