PEN (India), Kukunoor Movies and UV News Media & Communication Ltd.’s Lakshmi (A) is the story of how Lakshmi (Monali Thakur), a 14-year-old girl, is initiated into prostitution after she is sold by her father to two brothers who, under the guise of running a girls’ hostel, actually run a prostitution racket.
Reddy (Satish Kaushik) and Chinna (Nagesh Kukunoor) are human traffickers. Chinna buys young girls from different towns of Andhra Pradesh and brings them to the hostel run by his brother, Reddy. Lakshmi (Monali Thakur) is one such girl, 14 years of age, who comes with Chinna after she is sold by her impoverished father. Reddy sets his eyes on her from among the group of girls brought by Chinna, and takes her home on the pretext of protecting her. However, he rapes her after a few days and then sends her to his hostel where she is forced to service clients. Lakshmi meets the den’s madame, Jyoti (Shefali Shah), there and wins her sympathy.
Lakshmi is devastated and even tries to run away but the evil Chinna is too smart for her. On one such occasion, Chinna catches her while she is escaping and drives iron nails into her leg. Lakshmi falls ill as her wound is serious but Chinna doesn’t spare her even after the inhuman treatment meted out to her. She is forced to render sexual services even after she is seriously ill.
Then one day, a social activist, Mohan (Ramakrishna Shenoy), sends Reddy and Chinna a legal notice, accusing them of running a prostitution racket. He had posed as a client and had hidden a camera inside Lakshmi’s room. He has plans of showing all that the camera has captured, to the judge. Lakshmi decides to give witness against Reddy and Chinna. An honest lawyer, Avinash (Ram Kapoor), is hired but he is not sure whether little Lakshmi would be able to withstand the defence lawyer’s arguments, questions and allegations. But Lakshmi is adamant. She testifies in court and proves Reddy and Chinna guilty.
Nagesh Kukunoor’s story is based on a true-life incident about a girl who was pushed into prostitution and who dared to speak against those who ruined her childhood. His screenplay is too stark and too bold to be digested by the common man. The dialogues and also some visuals are so hair-raisingly bold and brutal that it would become difficult for the weak-hearted to sit through the drama of a little less than two hours. The rapes are shown and described in such graphic detail that they would leave a bad taste in the viewer’s mouth. In other words, Kukunoor attempts to make a realistic, bold and hard-hitting drama and succeeds too, but the result is that the film becomes too heavy and depressing. Dialogues, also penned by Kukunoor, are bold, brazen and shocking.
Monali Thakur does a truly fine job as Lakshmi. She expresses the predicament of an innocent 14-year-old initiated into prostitution wonderfully. Shefali Shah shines as the madame, Jyoti. Satish Kaushik, as the lecherous businessman, plays Reddy excellently. Nagesh Kukunoor is loud and detestable as Chinna, which is the need of the character. He shines. Ram Kapoor is truly endearing in the role of lawyer Avinash. Flora Saini makes her presence felt as Swarna. Gulfam Khan is effective as corporator Radha. Vibha Chhibber has her moments as Amma. Vinita Joshi is natural in the role of Asha. Priyanka Vir is good as Uma Didi. Ramakrishna Shenoy (as social activist Mohan), Sumit Sharma (as the opposition lawyer), Karan (as inspector Azam), Sandip (as male police inspector at police station), Teja (as female police inspector at police station), Suresh Kumar (as the judge), Subhash Gupta (as Dr. Murli) and Raju (as Lakshmi’s father) provide good support.
Nagesh Kukunoor’s direction is excellent. Having said that, it must be added that he has made a film for the festival circuit audience only. Tapas Relia’s music and background score are alright. Lyrics (Manoj Yadav) are okay. Chirantan Das’ cinematography is appropriate. Haris Umar Khan’s sets are realistic. Editing (by Sanjib Datta) is sharp.
On the whole, Lakshmi is a beautifully-made and very well-enacted film but it is of the kind which would be appreciated in the festival circuit. At the box-office, it stands bleak chances because it is too stark and too depressing.