Raghava Lawrence’s 2011 Tamil film, Kanchana, the second in his Muni horror series, get a Hindi remake, probably because a recently woke Akshay Kumar wanted to say something in support of the transgender community. So Lawrence directs, Laxmii (the ‘bomb’ in the title was dropped after protests) but cedes the main role to the big Bollywood star.
In the process of adapting the screenplay, not much has been added or improved, but much has been messed up. Again, because macho heroes cannot play a scaredy-cat, afraid of ghosts like Lawrence in the original, Asif (Kumar) works with an organization that fights superstition about ghosts using simple science. So, while the film proposes to stand with a marginalized community, it ends up endorsing the mumbo-jumbo its protagonist has been debunking. He also says that if he ever encounters a ghost, he will wear bangles, thus insulting women in the process. Also transgenders, come to think of it.
On then, to this supposedly haunted plot number 6 (6 is chhakka—silly usage); if anyone steps into the gate, they are spooked by strange phenomena, but the ghost waits for Asif to arrive to possess just him!
Asif and his wife Rashmi (Kiara Advani–bland) visit her parental home, to pacify her father (Rajesh Sharma), who was unhappy about the inter-faith marriage. A bratty nephew who is around just to say, “You are still harping on the Hindu-Muslim issue?” disappears when he is no longer required.
The family consists of dad, mom (Ayesha Raza), brother (Manu Rishi Chadha), sister-in-law (Ashwini Kalsekar) and another pointless kid. Soon enough, Asif takes a bunch of children to the haunted plot to play, and between one thing and another, invites the lurking spirits home—there are three, but the main one is the transgender, who enters Asif’s body and exits when s/he pleases, so he wears those dreaded bangles, drapes a sari and walk with a mincing gait. The others run around looking terrified, and performing bizarre rituals. Where is a rationalist when you need him!
When a shaman manages to get the spirit out, Laxmii (Sharad Kelkar) tells the sad story of how she was shunned by her family and adopted by a kindly Muslim man with a mentally retarded kid. When she adopts another transgender and wants to set up a centre for people like themselves, a land-grabbing villain (Tarun Arora) kills Laxmii and the foster family, and buries them on that plot No 6.
Laxmii’s spirit is seeking revenge, and Asif obliges by playing willing host to the ghost—there is no mention of whether spirit possession is a valid legal defence for multiple murders. The villain and his coterie are so ineffectual, you wonder why so much effort was expended to kill them; and nobody asked why he grabbed that land, only to leave it vacant!
As far as the horror element goes, Raghava Lawrence had a subject that could have offered the requisite chills and thrills; it’s the comedy that brings it all down with a crash. He makes the best of actors in the cast ham outrageously, and cranks up the din to noise pollution levels.
Hope the transgender community does not bother to protest against this bomb, it doesn’t deserve to be dignified with that kind of attention.