Director: A L Vijay
Cast: Prabhu Deva, Aishwarya Rajesh
When I began to warm up to AL Vijay’s Lakshmi, I wondered – at first – if it was a function of my expectations, which had been so low. There are so many things wrong with this kiddie dance-competition film, beginning with a ridiculously melodramatic pre-climax accident involving a cargo of… LPG cylinders. Whatever next? Sending Dora the Explorer to Hiroshima, circa 1945? The relationship between Lakshmi (Ditya Bhande), the star dancer who wants to win a major competition, and her mother (Aishwarya Rajesh) appears cold, formal, underdeveloped – it’s just a series of hi-s and bye-s. The mother’s past – important in the scheme of things – is barely explored. Kovai Sarala appears, yet again, as a… Kovai Sarala character. And the scene that brings Prabhu Deva into the narrative shouldn’t have made it even to a first draft. He owns a coffee shop. Lakshmi walks in and begins to dance. They’re bonded for life! I’ve seen shampoo commercials with more character development.
But, but, but… Lakshmi works. It is sweet, colourful, inoffensive – and the kids are awesome. They’re not just terrific dancers. Their little ups and downs (like the little girl who volunteers to opt out of a performance) are affecting, even though I wished the adorable overweight boy hadn’t been made the butt of fat-jokes. He dances like a dream, and with the least bit of self-consciousness. I wanted to become his cheerleader. Apart from the kids, the honours go to the adrenaline-pumping music (Sam CS), and Nirav Shah’s superb cinematography, which respects the sanctity of the often eye-popping choreography by capturing the motion in unbroken takes. (The staging of Asaiyum yaavum is a blinder, making you wish the work of Prabhu Deva, the genius choreographer, showed up on our screens more often.) And for Tamil cinema, it’s refreshing to see a “family entertainer” without romance and duets. There’s a wholesomeness about Lakshmi that transcends the template-clichés. You want to give it a C for not trying harder. But you also want to pinch its cheeks.