When filmmaker Raghava Lawrence made Kanchana in 2011, the Tamil film industry was shocked to see the overwhelming reception it got. Family audiences lapped it up with joy.
Lawrence, who also acted in the film, appears to be a god-fearing person in real life. His last name was credited as Lawrencce for a long time, and before that it was Ragava Larencee. He also added an extra ‘I’ to the film’s Hindi remake Laxmii (originally titled Laxmmi Bomb), also directed by him. So it’s not surprising that both his films find ways to legitimize superstitious practices with the help of some bad jokes. In Laxmii we are told there are three signs that prove a house is possessed by a ghost – a coconut spinning on its own, a cow refusing to touch a sumptuous meal it is served, and a spirit licking a drop of blood off the floor.
It’s highly unreasonable to say the film Kanchana is better than Laxmii because every film in the Muni Universe, which the former is a part of, is mind-numbing. Therefore, titling a piece Kanchana vs Laxmii is like choosing between the devil and the deep blue sea. They both deserve to be thrown into the sea. That said, here’s how the two films stand apart.
In Kanchana, Lawrence plays the titular role of Raghava, the same as Akshay Kumar’s character in Laxmii. Raghava is a bachelor who tries to capture the attention of his sister-in-law’s (Devadarshini) sister (Raai Laxmi). Raghava is the kind of coward who drags his mother (played by Kovai Sarala) to the restroom every time he wants to pee after sunset because he fears being attacked by a ghost. This would be hard to digest from an actor of Akshay Kumar’s age. Hence, his character Asif is not a bachelor. He is married to Rashmi (Kiara Advani) with whom he shares zero chemistry.
The inter-religious tussle (Asif is a Muslim and Rashmi is a Hindu) in their relationship is barely addressed even as the latter’s mother (Ayesha Raza Mishra as Ratna) invites the couple to their house. She wants her daughter and son-in-law to be by her side when she celebrates her twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. That’s a great gesture, but I kept wondering why her son (played by Manu Rishi Chadha) looked older than her.
Lack of Comedy
Kanchana and Laxmii are both termed as horror comedies. But neither of them have spooky ghosts that send shivers down your spine nor a joke-a-minute scenes to keep you in splits. Akshay Kumar’s comic timing is usually dependable when given the right material. Even when his films are bad, he shines because he knows how to land a joke. But in Laxmii he’s burdened with a dull character and an even duller screenplay. The songs pop out of nowhere, just like in the original, taking the essence of the story away.
Laxmii is about the ostracization the trans-community faces on a regular basis. But that portion of the narrative is too small to make an impact and the rest of it is covered with ultra-stupid mumbo jumbo.
The Ultimate Test
So which one should you watch? If you want to see Raghava shake his leg to peppy songs, watch the Tamil movie. If you’re in the mood to sit back and watch a bunch of good actors slide down the hill of nonsense, pick Laxmii. There’s no winning here.
It’s unclear whether Akshay Kumar will continue to star in the movies under the Laxmii brand. Kanchana was so successful that it spawned an entire universe. If he does take this forward, I really hope he finds better writers.