Even as the Akshay Kumar, Kiara Avani-starrer Laxmii (previously Laxmmi Bomb) broke the record as one the most viewed films on Disney Hotstar, the film seems to have left few impressed.
Laxmii, a remake of the 2011 Tamil film Kanchana, is a horror-comedy directed by filmmaker Raghava Lawrence. The plot follows a man who is possessed by the vengeful ghost of a transwoman who had been wronged and is now back to seek revenge.
As being one of the first films Bollywood films to actually feature a transwoman as the protagonist (albeit as a ghost), many had community hoped that the film would help the trans community gain some representation in mainstream films and pop-culture.
The film has nevertheless ended up provoking ire from the audiences, both queer and otherwise. Many from the LGBTQIA community have alleged that the film yet again perpetuates stale and derogatory stereotypes that Bollywood has usually associated with trans women.
Even as the film released on November 9, calls for banning Laxmii grew louder as many from the LGBTQIA community in India took to social media to call out the problematic film.
"Laxmii encompasses the vile stereotyping that Trans Lives have been subjected to by mainstream media platforms. Reduced to being props and steps for others to use and or mock. Let me remind you, we are not objects," a Twitter user wrote. LGBTQIA activist Harish Iyer also took to Twitter to share why the film was problematic and not the kind of representation the community needed.
Manipuri trans activist Santa Khurai also took to Facebook to call out the film. "Bollywood community has no story left for good selling, now trying their best to promote the industries with fabricated stories of people, community and caste but audience continue craving after Bollywood dramas with no proper review," Khurai wrote.
This is not the first hiccup for Laxmii, which initially caused outrage among conservative Hindus who claimed that film's title was derogatory to Hindu religion as it contained the name of a deity in connection to a bomb. Despite the name change, the film was slammed by many for not hiring a transgender actor to play the role of a transgender woman.
Criticism of Laxmii is also not the first time that a Bollywood film has been panned for depicting homophobia in the name of representation. Depiction of queer characters, especially trans women and "effeminate" men, has perenially suffered from stereotypes with filmmakers often reducing them to hypersexualized villains, serial killers, or comedy tropes.