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Kiara Advani and Akshay Kumar in the movie.

Film: Laxmii

Director: Raghava Lawrence

Cast: Akshay Kumar, Kiara Advani, Sharad Kelkar, Ayesha Raza Mishra and Ashwini Kalsekar

Stars: 1.5 out of 5

Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar’s turn as a man possessed by a wrathful transgender ghost in horror comedy ‘Laxmii’ isn’t just traumatic for those who wronged her, but is shockingly painful for those viewing the bloody spectacle. You wonder what possessed Kumar and his crew to make this ridiculous film.

Be prepared for a hellish ride where a clutch of usually talented actors are hamming their way haplessly through their parts.

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Kumar plays Asif, a Muslim businessman, who is happily married to a Hindu woman (Kiara Advani), but their interfaith marriage creates a rift among their folks. But they finally get a chance to make amends for their elopement when Asif’s in-laws invite the loved-up couple home for a family reunion.

We are told Kumar is a self-made businessman who dabbles in the granite and marble business, but in his downtime he is part of an association that dispels myths about ghosts and supernatural beings.

But his scientific mind takes a back seat when a bloodthirsty spirit takes over his body. Asif is now controlled by the spirit of a feisty transwoman, who was murdered by greedy real-estate tycoons.

The movie — a remake of South Indian hit ‘Kanchana’ — is a messy mishmash of topics such as violent land grabbing, acceptance of interfaith couples and equal rights for transgender people.

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Their intention to make this horror comedy may have been noble, but the execution is shoddy. The comedy seems stale and the horror portions are filled with predictable jump scares. The songs — inserted at random points — have no particular purpose either and make the movie an arduous watch.

The usually reliable Kumar seems out of depth in this poorly-written, clunky film and seasoned actors like Ayesha Raza Mishra and Ashwini Kalsekar’s brand of humour is mind-numbingly mirthless. The chemistry between Advani and Kumar is barely there and the back story of the transgender ghost seems outdated and archaic. The usual tropes attached to a Hindi horror potboiler, such as an abandoned plot of land filled with corpses and screechy ghosts, have all been thrown into this confused conundrum of a film.

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While it was heartening to watch a new film in UAE cinemas after a long time (the film is releasing directly on a streaming platform in India except in select territories), the movie is on an unstable ground from the word go. Be warned, everybody in this film seems to have graduated from a school of overacting. Perhaps, their characters were meant to be wonderfully wacky and zany, but they come across as tinny and annoying.

The portions where Kumar turns into a violent ghost is painfully on the nose. Each time before he goes for a kill, he snarls and chatters his teeth together making his character seem bestial and regressive. It’s one of those films where you wonder why such a torturous movie was greenlit in the first place. But what chilled you to the bone is that this horror comedy ends on a note that seems to suggest that there could be a second instalment in the offing. Now that’s scary.

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‘Laxmii’ is out in UAE cinemas now.