What is film but an exaggerated portrait of life?
Raghava Lawrence's 'Kanchana' took this to heart to make an exaggerated but fun and humorous comedy-horror that was a box-office smash hit at the time, owing to its unorthodox phantom and the cast's shenanigans.
Akshay Kumar's "Laxmii" on the other hand maintains the frame by frame accuracy of the original but retains none of its over pitched charm. It follows Asif (Akshay Kumar) whose anti-superstition drive and scepticism is the driving force of the movie.
Asif and his wife Priya (Kiara Advani in an eminently forgettable role) move to spend the holidays with Priya's family. Asif unwittingly brings home a ghost that will turn his life and ideals upside down.
Perhaps the biggest failing of the movie is it's preachiness, a feature of many Bollywood films. It tends to hit you over the head with moralistic messages.
Whether it's Asif's skepticism, or the interfaith marriage angle and religious conflict that was forced in, the movie tries too hard to teach the audience without the fun that made the original watchable.
In 'Kanchana', the only message was the treatment of the transgender community and it did so quite well for a movie in its genre, even if it may not be extremely palatable years later.
It is also rather strange to note the change of the protagonist from Raghava in 'Kanchana' to Asif. Perhaps it was done to make the introduction of an Islamic exorcism more palatable to a Northern audience.
Asif is also stiff and bland, and there's little in the way of character development – a stark change from Raghava's shenanigans in 'Kanchana' where he was a ghost-fearing and superstitious young man who eventually learned to confront his fears.
Though Ashwini Kalsekar and Ayesha Raza Mishra bring their own touch to the characters of Asif's mother and sister-in-law, neither of them can match the energy of Devadarshini and Kovai Sarala. SharadKelkar does manage to bring life to the character of Laxmii in flashbacks and is quite faithful to the character
It is also rather sad that they replaced a crucial scene from the climax of the film - in the original, the ghost of Kanchana makes a heartfelt appeal to enter a temple, asserting herself as a victim in life and in death, winning over the Narasimham idol and gaining entry.
In 'Laxmii' the climax is rather underwhelming with only Asif entering the shrine as a human can go where a ghost cannot.
The songs by Tanishk Bhagchi are typical of most of his career and of Bollywood films of the past few years: forgettable is a one word summary for them. Big sets and generic pop music are awkwardly sandwiched into the plot. Cinematography and effects are average, with Vettri Palani swamy (who worked on 'Muni 2: Kanchana') having been retained by director Lawrence.
Overall the movie is a one time watch with very little charm or interest. It feels as though the humour and energy of 'Kanchana' is not fully translated to the audience.
An exceptionally average film, even with Raghava Lawrence who acted and directed his original. Several of the changes made feel unsatisfying and the film lacks a punch that made 'Kanchana' so memorable, even though it was not perfect.