The London Asian Film Festival 2014 took off on Sunday 1st June with the critically acclaimed film ‘Lakshmi’ with filmmaker Nagesh Kukunoor taking part in a Question and Answer session post the screening.
Kukunoor has always been known for his bold and thought-provoking style and with ‘Lakshmi’, he preys on the world of child prostitution, also delving into a society in India who make the unthinkable normal. Surrounding the story of 14-year-old girl, Lakshmi, who is sold by her father into prostitution, the film follows her as she is forced to live and trust people she doesn’t know into a world that she would never have imagined herself ending up in – and that too at such an adolescent age.
Playback singer and Indian reality TV star Monali Thakur plays the protagonist with absolute ease and with great courage. Kukunor divulged that he had initially cast a 14-year-old girl in the role but evidently realised that this would be unknowingly putting her through the same ordeal as the story he was about to tell and therefore starting casting fresh. Thakur, in a film that was shot over just 22 days, seems to be the ideal actress for the role and very much proves her mettle in wanting to support such a project which looks at some sickening mentalities and is derived from a true story.
Kukunoor, during the QnA at the Tricycle Theatre in London, spoke about the decision of giving this story to the film festivals around the globe as opposed to looking to release it properly. There had been censorship problems in India but the film, after some cuts, released in the sub-continent some months ago.
The film is indeed brutal but Kukunoor revealed that he had toned down the real truths of the story in order for it to be told and still have an impact with the viewers. He spoke about there being communities in India where the families have their daughters go into prostitution because that is the only way they would be able to survive abject poverty. He also touched on there never being gender equality in the country.
The London Asian Film Festival continues until 14th June at various London locations and is presented by Tongues on Fire.
Stay with BizAsia for more about the festival.