The MUNI series has won tremendous love from moviegoers in South India. The film franchise — directed by Raghava Lawrence — is also hugely successful when one looks at its economics and BO returns. Frankly, it didn’t come as a surprise to me when a Hindi remake of the second film in the series — KANCHANA — was announced sometime back.
However, what did catch my attention — and I admit, I was surprised too — was Akshay Kumar’s decision to not just back the project [LAXMII], but also reprise the pivotal role enacted by Raghava Lawrence in the original. Just when you thought that Akshay would attempt a hardcore masala film, the decision to green light LAXMII came as a welcome move.
I have watched KANCHANA twice and what genuinely grabbed my attention was the taut screenwriting of the film. The unconventional plot — with a strong message — stayed with me the first time, which explains why I watched it again, after a gap. And I enjoyed KANCHANA during the second viewing as well.
Now let’s analyse LAXMII. A few questions before I move ahead...
* Does LAXMII grip you, like KANCHANA did?
* Does Akshay suit the character or is it an over the top performance?
* What about the VFX? How convincing does it look when juxtaposed with the dramatic and emotional goings-on?
* Most importantly, does LAXMII combine humour and horror seamlessly or does it hit a roadblock?
The plotline. LAXMII narrates the story of a man, Asif [Akshay Kumar], possessed by the ghost of a transgender, who had been brutally murdered. The family [his wife and in-laws] soon realise Laxmii’s motive: Revenge.
To start with, LAXMII is nowhere close to the original Tamil film [KANCHANA], although one notices modifications in the narrative to cater to the Hindi audience. The problem with LAXMII lies in its weak screenwriting. It hinges on humour for most of its first half, but it doesn’t work. It is only towards the second hour — when Sharad Kelkar makes an entry — that the narrative gathers momentum. That point onwards, right till the finale, it gets better.
The horror tropes don’t leave much of an impact. Ideally, the jump scares should give you chills, but it’s old school horror. Even the songs — especially the first two songs [including ‘Burj Khalifa’] — deserved better placements/situations.
Raghava Lawrence is letdown by the writing. The writers try to juxtapose humour in the classic horror template, but it lacks meat. Recent horror-comedy hits like GOLMAAL AGAIN  and STREE  worked big time due to a strong screenplay. Unfortunately, LAXMII is an opportunity lost.
‘Bam Bholle’ is clearly the best song, in terms of placement and choreography. The background score adds spunk to the proceedings, while the DoP captures the mood of the film right. The VFX — it has an important role to play here — is alright.
Now to the performances. The scene stealer here is — without a shred of doubt — Akshay Kumar. It’s a physically demanding character and the actor goes all out, proving his versatility in the process and delivering a sparkling performance. Kiara Advani looks gorgeous, but gets limited scope. The big surprise is Sharad Kelkar. He is excellent.
LAXMII has a plethora of actors — Rajesh Sharma, Manu Rishi Chadha, Ayesha Raza, Ashwini Kalsekar, Tarun Arora and Prachee Shah — and each one of them is strictly okay.
On the whole, LAXMII lacks the punch. One expected so much more from this film, but it clearly disappoints.