Cast: Prabhudheva, Ditya Bhande, Aishwarya Rajesh, Kovai Sarala
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Director Vijay’s last film with Prabhudheva, Devi, was a sleeper hit. With his next two releases, Vanamagan and Diya, opening to lukewarm responses, the filmmaker is back with the choreographer-actor, his lucky charm it seems, for Lakshmi. Together, they almost hit the bullseye once again with a film that is as much about human emotions as it is about dancing.
Each of Lakshmi’s various subplots reminded me of other films. While the thread about a couple separating when one of them puts their career ahead of their life reminded me of Rajinikanth’s Puthukavithai, the single mother’s struggle to bring up a child, who wants to pursue something the mother disapproves of, brought to mind M Kumaran S/O Mahalakshmi.
The dance competition, of course, is straight out of the Step Up series. But Lakshmi, as a whole, can be said to be somewhat along the lines of Karate Kid. A child bought up by a single parent finds a friend and a mentor in a man who, because of the kid, is forced back into the same game he opted to stay out of, but this time, not as a contestant but a coach. Even the famous Mr Miyagi’s wax on, wax off from the old 1984 Karate Kid, and Mr Han’s jacket on, jacket off in the film’s 2010 remake, gets a callback when Krishna/VK (Prabhudheva) tells his students to breathe in and breathe out.
As in those films, the hero of Lakshmi too is not an adult, but a child — the titular character is played by Ditya Bhande, an amazing find. The Super Dancer season one winner fits in perfectly as Lakshmi, the school-going kid who cares for nothing in the world but dance -- so much so that she kuthu-dances in front of a death procession, shakes her legs while simply sitting and sometimes, even when sleeping. Her flawless dance and near-perfect lip sync along with her adorable expressions make her a scene-stealer. The other kids in the film get moments too that make you feel all warm and fuzzy.
On the other end, we have the adults. Apart from Prabhudheva, the others, including Aishwarya Rajesh, contribute very little to the film. Prabhudheva, of course, is at home with his character, and adopts the same mischief we loved in Devi (in which too, interestingly, he was named Krishna). Another character I wish had more screen space is the school principal with a secret love for dancing, played by Kovai Sarala.
Unsurprisingly, the dance portions of the film are the major highlight. The a cappella Asaiyum Yaavum track, the dance sequences in the competition, and Salman Yusuff Khan’s solo dance sequence are all jaw-dropping. Not to mention the single-shot dance sequence of Prabhudheva in the flashback portions which proves that the man still has it. He also shows a bit of his acting prowess in the climax, which is almost a replica of Vijay’s Deiva Thirumagal’s climax court scene, where two characters prove action speaks louder than words.
What doesn’t work here is the predictable storyline. The problem is, we pretty much know how the film is going to end even before the intermission. Has the underdog lost in the climax ever? The conflicts don’t really up the stakes. While Vijay is to be lauded for showing a dignified single mother who isn’t judged by others, he loses points for having an over-weight kid be fat-shamed in another scene. On the technical front, Nirav Shah’s frames and Sam CS’s music deserve praise. Despite being extremely predictable, Lakshmi is a feel-good entertainer that will get you moonwalking out of the theatre.