Gritty, austere and speak the language of the streets



The happy moments in the movie also come from the fact that all of the other girls are well characterized and attributed to a lot of talent.


To throw: Chitrangada Chakraborty, Vibhawari Deshpande, Mayur More, Upendra Limaye, Saharsh Kumar Shukla, Divya Unny, Kamil Shaikh, Kritika Pande, Vikas Shukla, Suchitra Pillai
Director: Aditya Kriplani

Mujhe sannata pasand hai, ”says Laxmi (Vibhawari Deshpande), trying to erect a soundproof fence around her personal space after being forced to take Putul (Chitrangada Chakraborty) under her wing and in her little kholi. Despite the strong smell of chameli and sarson ka such which floats on the head of the new girl, Laxmi cannot say no because it is the order of her pimp Mhatre (Upendra Limaye).

“Mujhe company pasand hai,” Putul replies in her quintessentially endearing manner as she walks home on the mattress on the floor, putting down her bottle of booze and her packet of namkeen, offering both to Laxmi.

Also at night, Laxmi bites her nose while Putul sleeps, oblivious to the deadly farts she utters.

But soon, despite her best efforts, Laxmi begins to like Putul crashing into her sannata, smiling and letting out a fart herself. She also likes having someone to be irritated with.

Writer-director Aditya Kriplani’s Tikli & Laxmi Bomb is a film about sex workers and it tells their story through these two women who inhabit the same world, but negotiate it with a contrasting mindset and attitude.

Even in their appearance, they are distinguished by a world of their own.

Laxmi, the shaggy hair, the long brown skirts, the loose men’s shirts and the athletic sandals, seems to be afraid to stand out, to attract attention. She wants to merge with the dark streets.

Tikli does his best to shout his presence. She wears shimmering tops, ripped jeans, high heels. She leaves her hair open and abuses anyone, anyone, who crosses her path.

The red color she wears is the color of kranti, she says.

Laxmi and Putul operate from a deserted patch of a trail, with Manda (Suchitra Pillai), Tsamchoe (Kritika Pande), Sharanya (Divya Unny) and others, smoking, sipping tea, and listening to Mangatram gossip chaiwalla (Saharsh Kumar Shukla).

The story of the film encompasses both the deepest desire for patriarchy as well as its uncontrollable fear that women have a claim over their own bodies.

It shows the urgent and existential need of men to control and profit from these women, but also, simultaneously, to belittle them, abuse, mock, exploit and, of course, rape them.

Tikli & Laxmi Bomb doesn’t flinch once by presenting a gritty, austere and dark ecosystem in which these women operate. He happily speaks the language of the street, of a dhanda where the body of women has a price that belongs to men.

Laxmi teaches Putul how this world works.

Mhatre collects money and gives hafta to the cops and Corporal Shinde (Kamil Shaikh). He also made a deal with a nearby hotel that rents rooms by the hour. AT, the car driver (Mayur More), is supposed to rush to the girls’ rescue if they give him a distress call.

She teaches Putul how to make sex noises and tells him to check the backseat of a car before getting in. Because “Mard ki duniya mein apni safety, apni zimmedari”.

Although the cops are paid, they regularly round up girls and rape them in police stations while charging them with solicitation.

Laxmi, having been tortured several times by the cops, Mhatre’s men, Shinde, are perpetually in a state of gentle submission.

Putul insists on dignity. My body, my period, she said, holding a long, sharp knife.

She beats up AT, pulls a knife at a client, at Mhatre and abuses a cop.

“Kutte ki maut marega, by kutte ki zindagi nahin jiyega.”

The word circulates. Customers are starting to behave.

Slowly, gently, Putul prompts Laxmi to create an “apna system”. She offers ideas on how to cut out the middlemen, pay the cops directly, have their own security system, have more girls, more clients.

There is real joy in the film when women pool their intelligence, strength and guts to create something that is their own.

Tikli & Laxmi Bomb has a look that is neither obscene nor critical. Nor is it sickening charity. It’s just human. Without really showing much – there are no pornographic fantasies – the film manages to show how criminal and pitiful attempts to control the patriarchy are. It also indicates how viciously he reacts when challenged.

But even the last scene in the film, which is deeply overwhelming, seems to say it’s worth dying, worth trying.

Aditya Kriplani’s film doesn’t really delve into how or why these women got here. Instead, it focuses on the day-to-day of their life and work, moving beyond the prohibitive veil and allowing us to see not only women’s insecurities, loneliness and dangers, but also the women themselves.

Without painting them as victims or becharis, he simply shows them as workers negotiating the shred of space the world has given them to operate. A space that can never belong to them.

The film, shot mostly at night, features beautiful chases, jaw-dropping and shocking scenes, and cool background music. But there are also strange, almost foreign, pretentious moments where Laxmi suddenly decides to forge a relationship with Mumbai, the city, by singing the same ode to her three times.

The storyline doesn’t really give Mumbai a role and the story, although set in Mumbai, is not exclusive to it. These philosophical and breathless moments could have been suppressed to tighten the film.

Still, it’s Vibhawari Deshpande’s Laxmi that founds the film – gives it a residence and a kind of tired, depressed soul. And that creates the right space for Chitrangada Chakraborty’s Tikli to light up with a string of lights and his jokes.

Both Vibhawari and Chitrangada are performed very well and are brilliant.

The happy moments in the movie also come from the fact that all of the other girls are well characterized and attributed to a lot of talent.

Each one is distinct in its appearance, its choice of accessories and they stay with you. Kritika Pande (Tsamchoe) and Divya Unny (Sharanya Nair) were particularly good.

Kamil Shaikh, who plays Shinde, will always be scary for me.

Watch Tikli & Laxmi Bomb. It will change something in you.

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