Akshay Kumar released the poster for his upcoming film, Laxmmi Bomb, where he will be seen playing the character of a man possessed by a transwoman’s spirit. Directed by Raghava Lawrence, the film is based on the 2011 Tamil film, Muni 2: Kanchana, a horror-comedy. Kumar is familiar with genre thanks to Bhool Bhulaiya, but does he realise the additional responsibility vested in him? To be able to portray a transwoman sensitively onscreen in a mainstream Bollywood horror-comedy? Sounds pretty impossible, to be honest.
Navratri is about bowing to the inner goddess and celebrating your limitless strength.On this auspicious occasion,I am sharing with you my look as Laxmmi.A character I am both excited and nervous about… but then life begins at the end of our comfort zone…isn’t it? #LaxmmiBomb pic.twitter.com/TmL9U1OXdk
— Akshay Kumar (@akshaykumar) October 3, 2019
Given how severely underrepresented the trans community is in India’s mainstream industries, a star of Akshay Kumar’s size could significantly help shed some of the deeply prejudiced perceptions about them. Relegated to the margins especially in mainstream cinema discourse, we’ve either seen trans characters as villain a la Maharani (Sadashiv Amrapurkar) in Sadak, and only recently have we begun attributing them as ‘beautiful’ too like we saw in Sacred Games‘ Kukoo (Kubbra Sait).
But this is Bollywood. If Kumar reduces the transwoman to a punchline and a gimmick, and mines humour out of her, then it runs the risk of further alienating the trans community. Kumar’s film could potentially deal with her principal character in a sensitive manner and pave the way for mainstream films from around the country, but only if it chooses to not punch down.
The original film, Muni 2: Kanchana follows the story of Raghava (played by Raghava Lawrence) who has an overwhelming fear of ghosts. One day, the spirit of Kanchana (R Sarathkumar) possesses Raghava’s body and coaxes him to avenge her murder against a local politician.
Kumar is notorious for having made a career out of playing stereotypes, including a partial drag performance in one of his earlier films, Khiladi. Having built his celebrity empire with misogynistic franchises like Housefull and Priyadarshan films like Garam Masala, it could be advisable to keep expectations in check. However, with the changing times, we might just go on to witness a miracle in the form of a sensitive, sensible Akshay Kumar comedy.
Laxmmi Bomb is slated for release on May 22, 2020.