Lakshmi is a 2014 Indian Hindi-language biographical social problem film, written and directed by Nagesh Kukunoor. The film deals with the harsh realities of human trafficking and child prostitution, which continue behind closed curtains in rural areas of India. It was earlier expected to release on 17 January 2014, but got delayed due to censorship issues.
The film Won Best Film – Mercedes Benz Audience Award, for Best Narrative at the Palm Springs International Film Festival on 13 January 2014. The film released on 21 March 2014. The film was screened official selection at Toronto Reel World, Washington DC, New York Indian and Melbourne Indian Film Festivals. It would open the 16th London Asian Film Festival in June 2014.
Lakshmi (Monali Thakur), a 14-year-old girl, is kidnapped from her village by Chinna (Nagesh Kukunoor). She is taken to the home of Chinna’s elder brother and boss, Reddy (Satish Kaushik), where she first naively assumes the role of a domestic worker, helping the much older existing maid Amma (Vibha Chibber). However, she is later raped by Reddy himself. The next day, Chinna takes Lakshmi to a brothel managed by Jyothi (Shefali Shah), who is both a reassuring and oppressive figure to the girls. After her first night, Lakshmi manages to run away to a nearby police station, but her complaint falls on deaf ears since Reddy has paid off the local police force. Thrown into this horrific, inhuman world, she survives with the help of the other girls and her own will to never give in. She forms a close friendship with her roommate at the brothel Suvarna (Asha Saini), who walks her through the realities of life.
It is revealed that Jyothi works for Reddy in order to fund her daughters college education and plans to retire as soon as she graduates. At the brothel, Lakshmi meets Uma (Priyanka Vir), a kind hearted woman who periodically brings the girls sanitary items, condoms and sweets. While servicing a client at his home, Lakshmi tries to escape but is caught and punished by Chinna. She develops an infection due to the injury and is nursed by Jyothi and Survana, but is ultimately forced to work again, when a client demands a young girl. The client turns out to be an undercover agent Mohan (Ramkrishna Shenoy) who operates with the help of Jyothi and Uma, and Reddy and Chinna are arrested. The girls are taken to a women’s shelter where Lakshmi recovers but the case against Reddy stagnates since no one is willing to testify against him. The brothel is reopened and one by one, the women slowly return, until Lakshmi is the only one left at the shelter.
Against all odds, Lakshmi shows courage where everybody else fails. Her lawyer (Ram Kapoor) is in retirement due to having previously suffered a nervous breakdown, and initially refuses to take the case. He believes that Lakshmi will not be able to withstand the immense stress of the case, since she is the only witness against a powerful trafficking syndicate. Resisting all pressure – violent threats, coercion and bribes, she stands up in court. Her testimony reveals that her father sold her to a local politician, who in turn sold her to Reddy. At the brothel, Chinna beats and tortures Jyothi as punishment for her betrayal, and also reveals to Jyothi’s daughter that she works there. Later that night, Jyothi castrates Chinna and slits her own wrists, resulting in them both bleeding to death. The trial results in a landmark judgement in India, succeeding in putting the traffickers behind bars.
Monali Thakur as Bangaru Lakshmi
Ram Kapoor as Avinash, Lakshmi’s Advocate
Satish Kaushik as Ram Reddy
Nagesh Kukunoor as Chinna
Gulfam Khan as Corporator Radha
Shefali Shah as Jyoti
Asha Saini as Suvarna
Vibha Chibber as Amma
Vinita Joshi Thakkar as Asha
Priyankaa Vir as Uma didi
Ramkrishna Shenoy as Mohan
Sumit Sharma as Opposition Lawyer
Raju as Bangaru Raju, Lakshmi’s father
Subhash Gupta as Dr Murli
Suresh Kumar as Judge
Karan Pamnani as Inspector
Tejeswani Vellicharla as Police woman