'Lakshmi' is not a film for the weak-hearted

Review: Filmmaker Nagesh Kukunoor's take on the horrid world of Indian sex trafficking is expertly acted and directed, which makes it all the more difficult to stomach.

It takes immense amount of courage to watch a film that is based on real characters and real stories. While the purpose of film often is about taking one away from reality, Nagesh Kukunoor’s Lakshmi does the exact opposite; it hits you in the face with truth.

Lakshmi chronicles the life of a 14-year-old who is forced into the vicious cycle of prostitution and violence after being kidnapped from her village in Andhra Pradesh.

Lakshmi befriends Swarna, a roommate and fellow prostitute, who teaches her the tricks of the trade and often finds solace in a bottle of cheap rum. Jyoti, head of the brothel, feels sorry for the young Lakshmi and takes it slow — just one or two men a day instead of the six or seven she is actually supposed to sleep with.

“You will go to hell,” Lakshmi tells Jyoti the first time she is asked to have sex. “I am already there,” Jyoti replies.

And that sums up the conditions of their lives: a living hell in dingy and dirty rooms with men of all ages coming in to use their bodies for “happy endings.”

Lakshmi’s courage and determination is what keeps her going. Even in the darkest times, she remains unbreakable and reminds Chinna, the pimp, about her promise that she will run away to freedom.

The question is what will become of her if she manages to escape? Swarna manages to answer that in the simplest way: “Our families won’t accept us, our friends refuse to recognize us and the world wishes we were buried alive.” As much as you would hope this is untrue, it is as close to reality as it can get.

Monali Thakur plays the teenaged Lakshmi. What is astonishing is that Thakur herself is 28 but manages to deliver the innocence of the 14 year old with utmost honesty. There are moments in the film that make you want to hug the not-so-little girl, like when she sits cuddled up in the corner after her first customer. And there are moments when you applaud at her bravery and courage. There are more of the latter.

Director Nagesh Kukunoor plays the horrendous pimp Chinna and does a fantastic job of objectifying and exploiting women. You will love to hate him.

This film is not for the faint-hearted. It is graphic and disturbing. You begin to wonder how human beings can be such vicious creatures and treat women like objects of play. It is an eye-opener on the atrocities that women face in India at as young an age as 14.

Kukunoor does a fantastic job of telling a story most people don’t want to hear.

The film ends with Lakshmi saying, “The tears won’t stop.” And that resonated the condition of the auditorium at the Syracuse University Human Rights Film Festival where everybody was moved, with some weeping.

A Q-and-A session with the director after the movie saw applause for Kukunoor and Lakshmi’s courage, thanking the director for such an eye-opener.

The film will leave you in awe and despair. But it is a must watch.

I love some of Nagesh

I love some of Nagesh Kukunoors work and this by far is the best of it all. Lakshmi is a movie if not made properly would have become a semi porn... it is well directed and the message is comes out loud and clear.

Monali, Shifali, Nagesh, Ram Kapoor, Satish Shah have done Justice to their roles

This movie is truly not for the weak hearted...

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