Laxmmi Bomb starring Kiara Advani and Akshay Kumar in lead roles is a horror-comedy that sees latter play the role of a transgender person. Produced by Fox Studios the film is slated for a digital release on Disney Hotstar, on 9 November 2020. The trailer for the film that released today and, probably even the movie, is a representational catastrophe that does a disservice to the entire transgender and queer community.
Kumar is found saying in the first ten seconds of the trailer, "jis din sach me mere saamne bhoot ayaa na, toh maa kasam chudiyaan pehen loonga". This line sets the premise for the entire trailer and one can already expect the misogyny, transphobia and objectification that is bound to follow. This is a movie written by a cis-man for a largely cis-gendered audience, starring cis-actors. The cis-male lead in the film plays the role of a transgender person in the movie. What could go wrong then? A lot.
In SheThePeople.TV's show Sisterhood with Shaili, Trinetra Haldar, a transwoman and transgender rights activist notes that “Something you find in India, in Bollywood, in popular culture is this reduction of a trans person to a joke." You can watch the episode here:
Kumar's portrayal of a transgender person is indeed reducing transgender people to a joke, an object of comic relief, and even objectifying them for the male gaze.
The Problems of Representation
Transgender people in popular culture are continuously reduced to a set of attributes like feminine clothing, wearing makeup or effeminate mannerisms. This has led to creation of stereotypes that pervades the trailer of Laxmmi Bomb. Kumar is seen wearing a saree and a red bindi, which has been his character's signature look since the movie had been announced. The transness of the character is evoked for laughter and to tackle a ghost that pervades the mansion.
One of the ways in which marginalised groups are deprived of their rights is through their portrayal as gods and goddesses or attributing some extraordinary powers to them. Such portrayals do a disservice to the entire community. Kumar "becomes" a transgender to fight the ghost in the house. This erroneously shoes that being a transgender person or any gender identity is a matter of choice. This dangerous rhetoric subjects communities to violence and further marginalisation.
Actors like Kumar and movies such as Laxmmi Bomb, despite their problematic representations, have a mass appeal. Remember Kabir Singh? Audiences are vulnerable to such popular representations making these their point of reference to understand gender identities.
A quick note on the pervasive misogyny, did you notice that in the trailer, Advani, the female lead, gets only one dialogue? The remaining trailer is dominated by Kumar. The only other time Advani is visible is when she is dancing alongside Kumar or is a part of a larger scene. Sigh, Bollywood!
Watcht the trailer of Laxmmi Bomb here:
Priyanka Chakrabarty is an intern with SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed are the author's own.