A cry for gender equality with a difference, debutante director Aditya Kripalani’s TIKLI AND LAXMI BOMB turns yesterday’s victims into today’s heroes in an arty and worthy indie that is raw, honest, powerful and passionate.
From the classic Shyam Benegal’s MANDI (1983) starring Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil to Nagesh Kukunoor’s exploitive LAKSHMI (2014) starring today’s popular singer Monali Thakur, prostitution is used as a tool to highlight the bigger issue. Aditya Kripalani ( known for his books Backseat, Front seat and Tikli and Laxmi Bomb) debut movie also does the same in pushing forward a theme but with a difference.
Based on a novel by the same name written by the director himself, TIKLI AND LAXMI BOMB draws attention to the plight of women in the world’s oldest profession. Aditya Kripalani’s realistic, bold approach that checks the eagerness to get sensational cuts it from the routine. Powered by strong and naturalistic performances, the movie makes for an engrossing, insightful study of internal and interpersonal conflict between sex workers and pimps laced with occasional layers and shock materials.
Laxmi (Vibhawari Deshpande) is a middle age prostitute who heads the group of street sex workers in Mumbai who work under a pimp named Mhatre (Upendra Limaye). Laxmi sheds the typical Bollywood stereotypes as the prostitute; she is not at all decorated with those lipsticks, powder and flashy clothes. Laxmi wears shirts and skirts and has a commanding presence but the ‘lady’ is a pawn in the net monitored by man like Mhatre and created by his bosses. One night an outspoken import from Bengal Putul (Chitrangada Chakraborty), changes the world of Mhatre and Laxmi upside down as she challenges the whole system and threatens to bring a revolution in sex trade where women will have all the power, eliminating the dominance of the chauvinist males in the scenario. “Mera body, Mera pain, Mera ganda wala feeling toh phir mera paisa” (rough translation – my body, my pain, my dirty feeling after the work so my money). Putul gets a nickname – Tikli ( a name given to a small cracker but here it’s used as a simile for trigger).
It’s challenging for writer like Aditya Kripalani – alumni of Film and Television Institute of India to adapt his own book into silver screen, unless and until it is written with an intention to hopefully attract filmmakers as in the case of Chetan Bhagat.
Kriplani narration at some point in between feels episodic making it a better option as a tv/web series, but the debutant helmer gives time and space to his principal characters, making Tikli and Laxmi earn their relationship with each other on screen and simultaneously with the audience. Kriplani comes with some raw and honest detailing over here. The world of street prostitutes and their daily life is realistically touchy, here they are victims but they don,t plea for sympathy, they demand power and control. The movie takes an edgy and violent turn but it’s not graphic.
With the spurt of women centric movies nowadays like PARCHED, LIPISTICK UNDER MY BHURKHA etc, TIKLI AND LAXMI BOMB carries the flag and aims to hoist it at a street where women are not generally not at all considered as a woman and are just a commodity, Kriplani turns a sex workers into human with feelings, they laugh, cry, fight and stand for their right.
TIKLI AND LAXMI BOMB has its stand out moments especially the bonding between Tikli and Laxmi Bomb is engagingly unique as they come to terms with each other after initial complexities and unite as a force.
Performances are of highest orders over here, Vibhawari Deshpande as Laxmi is excellent. She uses her body language excellently and delivers a solid performance.
Chitrangada Chakraborty as Tikli is amazingly spontaneous and gives a powerful performance.
Supporting actors like Upendra Limaye as the pimp is brilliant. Mayur More as A.T. assistant to Mhatre is fine. Saharsh Kumar Shukla as the ‘khabri’ coffee, cigarette vendor is amusing. Suchitra Pillai as Manda the leader of rival gang of sex workers deserves special mention.
TIKLI AND LAXMI BOMB is remarkable in its unique attempt to give a human touch to the world of sex workers on street, its raw, bold, passionate and worthy indie that focuses on gender equality in those dark, shanty and dirty lanes and takes the issue beyond our homes and offices. The winner of Best Film Award at the Berlin Independent Film Festival 2018 and yesterday it bagged the best film award at the UK Asian Film Festival is a must for concerning audience who love to take the shot that calls for debate, triggers a movement and offers fodders for thought.