Tikli and Laxmi Bomb (2017)

Tikli and Laxmi Bomb
Director: Aditya Kripalani
Writer: Aditya Kripalani
Cast: Vibhawari DeshpandeChitrangada ChakrabortySuchitra PillaiSaharsh Kumar ShuklaMia MaelzerDivya UnnyKritika PandeUday AtroliaUpendra LimayeMayur MoreVikas Shukla
Seen on: 3.3.2018
[Screener review.]

Laxmi (Vibhawari Deshpande) has been a sex worker for quite a while, always under the protection of Mhatre (Upendra Limaye). When he brings her a new girl, Putul (Chitrangada Chakraborty), she knows she has to show her the ropes, even though she doesn’t much care for it – or for the bubbly and mouthy Putul. When Putul’s defiance leads her to talk about revolution – working for themselves rather than Mhatre – Laxmi is reluctant at first, but knows that Putul – nicknamed Tikli – makes good points.

Tikli and Laxmi Bomb is a smart and engaging film. It tells an emotional story with great characters while thoroughly examining an unfair and oppressive system.

The film strikes a delicate balance with regards to the power and the impossibilities of individual political agency. As the women start banding together, it becomes obvious that solidarity is a necessary requirement to affect change in the first place – each to their own doesn’t work in the slightest. But even when banded together, there is a ceiling to the possible achievements. Without (lasting) structural change, in the end, things won’t really change.

In times where the neoliberal narrative of “if you want it, you just have to apply yourself and you’re going to get it” this is both a liberating and a sobering take on politics (and if you ask me, it’s the truth). But the film, fortunately, doesn’t go so far as to say that it’s futile to even try with action on an individual basis – because without it, structural change won’t be happening at all, ever.

I appreciated the general take on politics as much as the specific take on sex work: it comes entirely without judgement or objectification of the women involved and focuses a lot on the system and the structures in place around it. Since the writer and director is man, they took care to have an otherwise largely female crew – and it certainly paid off in the way the sex workers are shown on screen. I would have liked a little more character work with the supporting cast – the women around Laxmi and Tikli tend to blur into each other – but neither of them is ever not a person.

Looking away from the politics for a moment, what remains is an engaging film with vibrant characters, a nice sense of humor and a deeply emotional touch, even when it’s sometimes a tad heavy-handed. I rooted for them all so hard, I was wrecked at the end.

So the film takes the audience on several rides – and all of them are filled with politics and heart. There should be more films like it.

Summarizing: See it.

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