Lakshmi Movie Review by Taran Adarsh

lakshmi3.5

Nagesh Kukunoor’s movies, generally, mirror reality. The maverick film-maker is known to dabble in societal issues that plague a chunk of the populace. His newest endeavour LAKSHMI is no different. Like some of his earlier films, LAKSHMI depicts the struggle and hardships faced by the protagonist, but there’s hope… she overcomes the hurdles with sheer grit and determination. This time around, Kukunoor focuses on the flesh trade and how the physically abused adolescent, after enduring adversities, takes the tyrants to task.

Steering clear of the conventional route undertaken by a majority of film-makers this side of the Atlantic, Kukunoor paints a dark and disturbing picture of sex trafficking. Frankly speaking, you need a strong stomach to absorb a film like LAKSHMI. For, the plight of children pushed into the flesh trade makes you uncomfortable… it may even rob you of your sleep when you recall the plight of Lakshmi. But the heroic and spirited stance of the adolescent should act as a wake up call for millions of adolescents across the globe, who have lost hope. And therein lies its strength!

The premise, first! Lakshmi [Monali Thakur] is a beautiful 14-year-old girl whose life takes a tragic turn when she is sold by her father to a lady corporator [Gulfam], who in turn sells her to Chinna [Nagesh Kukunoor], who acts as the front man for Reddy [Satish Kaushik]. Being a child, she is separated from the other girls and taken to Reddy’s house, where she is lulled into a false sense of security and then violently raped by Reddy. Subsequently, she is sent to a brothel owned by Reddy, which is run by Jyoti [Shefali Shah].

At the brothel, Lakshmi meets Swarna [Flora Saini], a tough, spunky girl, who teaches Lakshmi the tricks of the business. But Lakshmi is not ready to be enslaved. Her repeated attempts at escaping only serve to remind her of the futility of her situation — that there is no escape and nowhere to escape to. Meanwhile, people running an NGO organize a sting operation to rescue the girls from the brothel. All they need is a witness, just one woman who will testify against Reddy in court. Lakshmi picks up the courage to do so.

Some stories need to be told… and the story of Lakshmi deserves a platform to reach out far and wide. Kukunoor projects a fear-provoking reality that haunts women from impoverished and underprivileged backgrounds specifically. At the same time, the film underlines the triumph of the human spirit since the protagonist, after leading a horrific life, takes up cudgels against the offenders.

Reportedly based on a true story, Kukunoor doesn’t sugar-coat the episodes to make it ‘audience-friendly’. There are episodes that may distress you. The brutality projected on screen is disgraceful and infuriating, while a couple of sequences are exceedingly gory and project the savagery of the tormentors. Having said that, the outcome would’ve tapered had Kukunoor shied away from depicting the stark realities of life.

Blemishes? Kukunoor should’ve abstained from incorporating songs in the narrative. Not that there are too many songs, but why veer the focus from the core issue while communicating intense realism?

LAKSHMI is embellished with remarkable performances and topping the list is Monali Thakur, whose terrifying tale petrifies the spectator no end. It shakes you completely as you get sucked into her world, a world where violence, verbal and physical abuse and the constant cry for freedom hits you like a ton of bricks. Satish Kaushik, Nagesh Kukunoor, Flora Saini, Shefali Shah, Vibha Chibber [as Amma], Gulfam and Ram Kapoor — each and every act is tremendous.

On the whole, LAKSHMI is a heart-rending tale that ought to be told. It’s a film that’s sure to jolt you, take you out of your comfort zone, set you thinking about the plight of millions of kids pushed into the flesh trade. Sure, a number of images and instances in the movie are disturbing and distressing, but certain issues need to be addressed. Additionally, the message Nagesh Kukunoor conveys in LAKSHMI reverberates much after the screening has concluded.

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  1. Author
    sputnik 5 years ago

    Ragini MMS 2 Movie Review by Taran Adarsh

    Welcome back to the world of chills and thrills, sex and scares! The makers of RAGINI MMS [2011] are all set to unleash the second installment in its franchise — RAGINI MMS-2. A number of movies — with a heady cocktail of sex and horror — have made it to cineplexes in the intervening period, thus raising the bar for similar-genre movies. However, RAGINI MMS-2 is being peddled as ‘Horrex’ — a combo of horror and sex. Naturally, it’s imperative that the second chapter outdoes the first part in terms of plot, characters, skin show and most importantly, cold shivers.

    Director Bhushan Patel employs the customary horror tropes considered indispensable — secluded mansion, creaking doors, eerie environ, foggy evenings/nights — after having mastered the art in 1920: EVIL RETURNS. Now throw a spirit that’s thirsting to tell her backstory, sprinkle howling voiceovers, opt for state of the art effects, garnish it with foot-tapping songs and last but not the least, cast the alluring Sunny Leone… voila, the recipe to lure and entice moviegoers appears well orchestrated. The question is, does Bhushan get the formula right? Will RAGINI MMS-2 give the much-required fillip to the genre and the franchise?

    Let’s talk of the premise first! RAGINI MMS-2 takes off from where RAGINI MMS concluded. Ragini [Kainaz Motivala] and Uday [Rajkummar Rao] set out on a dirty weekend at a friend’s isolated farmhouse on the outskirts of Mumbai. Apparently, the house is haunted and worse, Uday has fixed cameras at strategic points to capture the love-making process. But the plans go astray… Uday is killed, Ragini is admitted to a psychiatric hospital and the MMS footage goes viral.

    The scandal catches the attention of a film-maker [Parvin Dabas], who plans to make a film on this outrageous story. He casts an actress [Sunny Leone] to portray the part of Ragini. The unit heads to the secluded villa where the MMS scandal transpired…

    In the current scenario, horror movies rely completely on atmospherics and sound design to send a shudder down your vertebrae, unlike the days of yore when skeletons/skulls and mutilated dead bodies would be paraded to startle and scare the viewer. Bhushan seems to have rehearsed the craft, incorporating ingredients that compliment a spooky fare with bloodcurdling episodes. The story is one-dimensional, no doubt, but the writers encompass ample macabre moments that promise chills and scares. Also, Sunny’s skin show heats up the proceedings.

    RAGINI MMS-2 writers [Suhani Kanwar, Tanveer Bookwala] borrow from the horror erotica of the West, but show flair and imagination, besides packing ample jump-in-your-seat jolts in the narrative. Having said that, although the influence is evident, the sequence of events are *not* cliche-ridden at all. Besides, it’s difficult to guess which character will get bumped off and how. Additionally, the sequences leading to the scary finale are truly riveting.

    Bhushan ensures he wastes no time is establishing the conflict between the living and the supernatural. The sequences involving the spirit are truly petrifying, while the sound design — so important in a film like this — has also been worked upon cautiously. Additionally, the film packs in erotica in generous doses. The skin show and smooches [including the much-talked-about kiss between Sunny and Sandhya Mridul] are not in short supply. Sunny goes all out this time and the hoi polloi/front-benchers are gonna love her.

    The DoP captures the mood well [there are no tilted camera angles or tight close-ups, thank you], while the lighting in the night sequences augments the eerie environ. The film boasts of two groovy tracks — ‘Baby Doll’ and ‘Chaar Bottle Vodka’ — which have been punctuated seamlessly in the 2-hour film. The background score is super.

    In view of the fact that RAGINI MMS-2 stars Sunny Leone as the protagonist, it gives its makers enough reasons to showcase her curves, which she flaunts uninhibitedly. Sunny carries off her character with supreme confidence, going that extra mile to look the character. It’s difficult to keep your eyes off the pretty lady. The director opts for a bunch of talented names to lend sufficient support and the ones who stand out include Karan Mehra [excellent], Divya Dutta [first-rate] and Sandhya Mridul [too good]. The talented Anita Hasanandani gets limited scope this time. Parvin Dabas is faultless as the flamboyant film-maker, while new-find Saahil Prem makes a confident debut.

    On the whole, RAGINI MMS-2 has ample scares, a generous dose of skin show, a winning soundtrack and of course, a sensuous Sunny Leone to spell S-U-C-C-E-S-S. This second helping is much more scrumptious and delicious than the first. Go, get spooked!

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  2. Author
    sputnik 5 years ago

    Aankhon Dekhi Indian Express Movie Review by Shubhra Gupta

    Star Cast: Sanjay Mishra, Rajat Kapoor, Seema Bhargava, Maya Sarao, Taranjeet, Namit Das, Brijendra Kala, Manu Rishi

    Director: Rajat Kapoor

    What if you come across a man who will believe only what he sees with his own eyes, and negate everything he can’t? Will you call him eccentric and ignore him? Or humour him, and hear him out? Rajat Kapoor’s beautifully written and directed ‘Aankhon Dekhi’ breathes life into such a man, fills him up with not hot air, but a mix of foolishness and wisdom that is at once arresting, and inviting. He is fool, clown and man, all in one. He is us.

    Bauji (Sanjay Mishra) lives with his younger brother (Rajat Kapoor) in one of those cramped first floor quarters, more hovel than ‘haveli’, in Old Delhi’s Fatehpuri area. It has a ‘chhatt’ with ‘janglas’, tiny rooms adjacent to each other, a makeshift kitchen, and a common toilet. The family is joint at the hip in more ways than one, which is evident right from the first scene when Bauji’s daughter Rita (Maya Sarao ) is found to be in a relationship with an allegedly disreputable boy (Namit Das), and all hell breaks loose.

    This is not the India which takes part in the sort of sex surveys that are grist to so many glossy magazine mills. This is still the Bharat, under attack from global forces but holding up perilously, where girls have to hide their boyfriends from their over-protective families and nosy neighbours, and where the ‘chacha’ has as much right to clip one across the cheek of the importunate invader as the father.

    Those who have grown up in such an atmosphere will instantly recognize Bauji, his ‘chota bhai’, their carping-but-close wives, and their children, growing up and outward, trying to find their place in a rapidly changing world.

    Kapoor’s film is an absolute gem, because he gives us a marvelous bunch of characters who make us laugh, and pause, and think. In another film, Bauji would have come off a caricature. But here he is a man in the vital process of sloughing off dead layers, and discovering his skin. Sanjay Mishra does a terrific job of becoming Bauji.

    Everyone else pitches in with performances which are as true and felt: Kapoor as the left-out-but-caring ‘chacha’, Bhargava as Bauji’s constant companion, Taranjeet as Kapoor’s wife, and Sarao as the spirited young Rita who wants to marry a fellow of her own choice. And a clutch of familiar faces (Kala, Rishi) and the others who make up the close-knit ‘mohalla’ and the ‘yaar- dost’ who show up for incessant ‘chai’ and chat, and never leave.

    Like all Kapoor’s best works, this one also works as a parable. There’s a splendid little thread that finds its way into Bauji’s world, in the shape of a young boy who can’t stop talking. And then comes a moment of silence when he stops. The film halts, and lets us savour the quiet. A random fellow asks direction to Lal Qila ( when you are in Fatehpuri, the Red Fort is all around you, to have someone ask how to find it becomes a great cosmic joke : did that guy ( Kapoor gang-member Ranvir Shorey) get there? ) All our senses are engaged, and we are alive to the hilarity, the absurdity, and the unexpected depths of Bauji and his life. And what it teaches us, with such poignance and ease.

    Kapoor directs with a sure eye and an unerring ear for the sounds of the Delhi 6 ( only quibble, the background music swells too loudly : those moments didn’t need that kind of underlining). He is also one of the few Indian directors who understands whimsy : it is in every frame, but never overdone, making this a film rich in what appear to be small but are actually significant pleasures.

    I have seen it with my own eyes, and I can tell you that ‘Aankhon Dekhi’ is a fine , fine film.

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  3. aryan 5 years ago

    Gang of Ghosts Movie Review by Taran Adarsh

    As a storyteller, Satish Kaushik has never stuck to any particular genre. In addition, he has helmed several remakes over the years, achieving varying degrees of success. His latest outing GANG OF GHOSTS is a remake as well, that of the immensely-liked and successful Bengali film BHOOTER BHABISHYAT [2012].

    While films involving ghosts/spirits fall into the horror genre, with spooky and blood-curdling episodes out to scare the living daylights out of you, GANG OF GHOSTS does a somersault. This one’s a comedy with an imaginative premise and wacky characters. While the original [Bengali] film could’ve veered into the outrageous zone, its director [Anik Dutta] made sure the humor was subtle, the ghosts — from diverse strata and era [projected as ‘endangered species’] — were lovable and the film successfully exposed the greedy real-estate sharks who’d raze structures to make way for shopping malls and multiplexes. The onus, therefore, falls upon Satish Kaushik to deliver ample laughs in the Hindi remake, besides punctuating the screenplay with a subtle message for the pan-India audience. Does Satish Kaushik remain faithful to BHOOTER BHABISHYAT, which skillfully passed on a vital message, yet eyed the commercial cinema-loving spectator? Does GANG OF GHOSTS deliver as a stand-alone film?

    Let’s enlighten you about the premise of GANG OF GHOSTS. The grand old mansions and mills of South Mumbai are being razed to make way for swanky condominiums, malls and multiplexes. Some of these dilapidated buildings were haunted by ghosts. They were evicted and are homeless today. There is no rehabilitation package on offer. Politicians, media, intellectuals, the common man — no one gives a damn to them. After all, ghosts can’t vote.

    Royal Mansion is one such heritage property, which is rented out for film shoots to facilitate its maintenance. A heroine faints during a film shoot, allegedly sighting a ghost in the mirror. A film-maker [Parambrata], on a recce of the mansion, gets to hear a spooky tale by an aspiring writer [Sharman Joshi] revolving around the house. But is it just a tall tale or is there a twist to it?

    Comedy is serious business and the storyteller ought to ensure that the audience reacts to the comic lines/punches as they unfurl on screen. Much like the original, GANG OF GHOSTS highlights the gluttony of the land-sharks to multiply their money, but, sadly, much is lost in translation. Reason being, Satish Kaushik is unable to retain the qualities that made the original film work. Sure, the cinematic sensibilities are different, but the film ought to keep you transfixed from commencement to conclusion. GANG OF GHOSTS is funny in parts and the zany moments do make you smile occasionally [except for the jokes on flatulence], but, alas, the genuinely funny sequences are few and far between, while the grip loosens at periodic intervals. The film turns captivating towards the closing stages — the penultimate 15 odd minutes hold your attention — but it’s too late for damage control.

    Additionally, what weighs down GANG OF GHOSTS is its soundtrack. Actually, there’s an overdose of songs — in the second half specifically — and what adds to the woes is that the tunes are lackluster. Since the Jains, who have produced the film [with Satish], have a music label and a knack for choosing melodies, the tracks should’ve been easy on the ears.

    The DoP brings to fore the bygone era effectively, while the dialogue are smart, witty and amusing at most times.

    Anupam Kher dominates the show with a super act, more so towards the finale, when he delivers a poignant speech. Sharman Joshi, synonymous with natural performances, gets his act spot-on. Parambrata, who gets to portray the same part in the Hindi version as well, is in fine form. Saurabh Shukla is first-rate. Mahie Gill brings back memories of the bygone era with her accomplished act. She’s simply excellent! Meera Chopra looks unrehearsed to get her act right. Vijay Verma looks his part, but doesn’t get ample scope. Jackie Shroff is typecast as a ‘Bhai’ for the umpteenth time.

    Chunkey Pandey, Yashpal Sharma, Asrani, Rajpal Yadav, Rajesh Khattar and J. Brandon Hill are adequate in their respective characters.

    On the whole, GANG OF GHOSTS offers laughs, but only in bits and spurts. It’s disheartening to watch a wonderful concept go awry!

    Rating: 1.5/5

    http://www.bollywoodhungama.com/moviemicro/criticreview/id/610593

  4. Author
    sputnik 5 years ago

    Lakshmi Movie Review by Rajeev Masand

    Rating: 2.5

    March 21, 2014

    Cast: Monali Thakur, Flora Saini, Shefali Shah, Nagesh Kukunoor, Satish Kaushik, Ram Kapoor

    Director: Nagesh Kukunoor

    In Lakshmi, writer-director Nagesh Kukunoor takes the unfortunate true story of an underage girl sold off to the flesh trade, and delivers a deliberately disturbing film that’s often hard to watch. It’s a tricky slope, films about exploitation and abuse. For as we’ve learnt from watching Madhur Bhandarkar’s movies, there’s a thin line between depicting harsh realities on screen, and in that process exploiting the very tragedy and the victim.

    We first meet Lakshmi (Monali Thakur), a 13-year-old traded by her alcoholic father for Rs 30,000, huddled in the back of a truck as it barrels through an Andhra forest. Her journey to hell begins when she’s tricked and raped by brothel owner Ram Reddy (Satish Kaushik, decidedly creepy) in a scene so chilling, it’ll rattle your insides. From there, she’s deposited at an overcrowded “girls hostel” in the city, where a kind-hearted but firm madam, Jyoti (an excellent Shefali Shah), explains to her that resistance is futile.

    Repeated attempts to fly the coop end badly for Lakshmi, who is caught each time by her sadistic pimp Chinna (Kukunoor, appropriately savage), and brutally punished. You’ll turn away repulsed when, after an unsuccessful getaway, Lakshmi, barely conscious and writhing in pain, must nevertheless service one man after another over the course of a single night.

    Exposing the dirty trail of sex trafficking, which often starts with a victim’s own family and can include unscrupulous women, influential bigwigs, and apathetic police, the film takes a realistic approach, but pulls you relentlessly into a vortex of sordidness. I cringed when Jyoti, disregarding Lakshmi’s complaints of physical discomfort, hands her a jar of lubricant, insisting it’ll make the job easier. In another graphic scene, Chinna tortures Jyoti by tying her up and putting a lit cigarette to her private parts for aiding a social worker in conducting a sting at the brothel. It’s explicit, stomach-churning moments like these that prompt you to question whether the film isn’t in fact exploiting the very inhumanity it condemns.

    It’s impossible not to summon up sympathy for the protagonist, but as a writer Kukunoor never gives us a real sense of Lakshmi outside of her situation. The film frequently flashbacks to memories of her playing with her sisters in the village, but we get no insight into her hopes and dreams, or even where she was headed before her tragic abduction. As a result, baby-faced Monali Thakur, while convincing as the teenaged Lakshmi, can’t rise above the one-dimensional characterization.

    Flora Saini makes a strong impression as Swarna, Lakshmi’s sympathetic roommate; your typical hooker-with-a-heart of gold. In one scene when Swarna decides to return to the brothel after being rescued and delivered to a women’s shelter, she raises an important question about the options available for sex workers seeking to rehabilitate themselves. But the film rests on a triumvirate of solid performances by Satish Kaushik, Shefali Shah, and Kukunoor that smoothen out many of its flaws.

    Although unsettling and horrific, the film is weighed down by its ‘standard-issue’ treatment. Lakshmi addresses a serious issue and forces us to confront a bitter reality, even offering hope in the end through the protagonist’s courageous fight for justice. But let’s not confuse the issue with the film, which is well-intentioned yet typical.

    I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five. Watch it for the performances.

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  5. Author
    sputnik 5 years ago

    Ankhon Dekhi Movie Review by Rajeev Masand

    Rating: 3.5

    March 21, 2014

    Cast: Sanjay Mishra, Seema Pahwa, Rajat Kapoor, Maya Sarao, Namit Das, Brijendra Kala, Manu Rishi

    Director: Rajat Kapoor

    Life is a medley of experiences, but are you savoring them or do you just go through the motions? Through the wonderfully whimsical Ankhon Dekhi, writer-director Rajat Kapoor shows us how the journey could be more meaningful if we lived life the way we choose to. Sanjay Mishra is aptly cast as Bauji, the 55-year-old patriarch of a joint family in Old Delhi. After an epiphany one day, Bauji decides that he will only believe what he can see for himself, refusing to go with the accepted truth.

    This poses its own set of problems, especially when Bauji quits his job as a travel agent because he can no longer honestly sell holidays to cities like Amsterdam, when he has never been abroad himself. His family is exasperated, and his younger brother Rishi (Kapoor himself) moves out with his wife and son when he can’t stomach Bauji’s eccentricities any longer. Bauji’s wife Pushpa (Seema Pahwa) is much more vocal in her anger, and several of Ankhon Dekhi’s brilliantly comical scenes are when she explodes theatrically.

    Slowly, Bauji collects a motley bunch of disciples who first question and laugh at his theories, but later hang on to his every word. In one humorous scene, Bauji and his chelas head off to the zoo to find out for themselves if there’s any truth to the commonly accepted belief that tigers roar.

    Through Bauji’s existential quest for the real, the film offers vignettes that are out of the real. Like that bit when a nephew is caught in a trance and can’t seem to stop talking. While everyone around treats him like an oddity, Bauji holds his hand and listens patiently, until the boy falls into silence and snaps out of it. It’s as if the film is offering a case for accepting people just as they are.

    But Ankhon Dekhi does meander in parts, especially when Bauji takes a vow of silence, or later when he discovers a knack for gambling when he goes to the local den to pay off his son’s debts. Despite its lush cinematography and moving score, the film tends to feel stretched. Yet we are mostly taken in by Kapoor’s gentle narrative, enhanced by an ensemble cast that delivers natural performances. Chief among them is Sanjay Mishra, instinctive as the oddball Bauji, mild-mannered and generous in spirit. Seema Pahwa is magnificent as his drama queen wife, often agitated by Bauji’s whims, while Rajat Kapoor is entirely believable as Rishi, quietly hurt and disapproving of his brother.

    The director makes a strong case for familial bonds, like Bauji’s superglue attachment to his daughter Rita, played by spirited newcomer Maya Sarao. There’s also the authentic portrayal of a joint family. Beneath their closeness, there are undercurrents and understandably, moments when their patience with each other wears thin. The family drama plays out before the entire neighborhood, and it’s through scenes like these that Kapoor skillfully offers you an India that you recognize and love.

    I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for Ankhon Dekhi. It’s a flight of fancy that I recommend you do not miss.

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