South actress Raai Laxmi was born Lakshmi Rai, on May 5, 1989, in Belagavi, Karnataka to Ram Rai and Manjula Rai. She spent her childhood in Saurashtra, Gujarat. Laxmi's first full-length feature film debut was in 2015, at age 17 with the Tamil film Karka Kasadara. (All pictures courtesy: Instagram and YouTube)
Raai Laxmi made her full-fledged Bollywood debut in a leading role, with the erotic-thriller Julie 2, which was written, co-produced and directed by Deepak Shivdasani and produced by Vijay Nair. A sequel to the 2004 film Julie, which starred Neha Dhupia, the film was presented by former Censor Board chief Pahlaj Nihalani. Released on November 24, 2017, it was Laxmi's 50th film as an actress.
Raai Laxmi was cast in Karka Kasadara by director R. V. Udayakumar, who was impressed by her performance in the short film Valmiki. A series of Tamil film ventures followed including the comedy Kundakka Mandakka (2005) opposite R. Parthiban, Perarasu's action-masala flick Dharmapuri (2006), and the romance film Nenjai Thodu (2007).
Raai Laxmi transitioned into more serious roles with the 2008 drama Velli Thirai, in which she played herself and Jeeva's directorial Dhaam Dhoom, which was an action-thriller. She received rave reviews for her portrayal of a lawyer in the film, which led to a Filmfare Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. One particular review by a leading entertainment website noted how she was able to effortlessly play a court professional caught in a web of drug smuggling.
Raai Laxmi's subsequent Tamil films in 2009, include Muthirai, Vaamanan, in which she played a glamorous supermodel and Naan Avanillai 2. She followed that up by having a special appearance in a song in the 2010 film Pen Singam and the role of a cowgirl in a wild west parody Irumbukkottai Murattu Singam starring actor, choreographer and filmmaker Lawrence Raghavendra.
2011 began on a high note for Raai Laxmi with the box-office Malayalam hit Christian Brothers. She bagged two high profile Tamil projects - the horror-thriller Kanchana opposite Lawrence Raghavendra, which would go on to spawn three sequels, and the action-thriller Mankatha, which starred Ajith Kumar and was directed by Venkat Prabhu. Critics lauded her performance of a character with grey shades in the film. Kanchana's box-office success also led her to sign it's Kannada remake Kalpana.
After doing her first special song in Ravi Teja's 2013 film Balupu, Raai Laxmi starred in the Malayalam film Arabiyum, Ottakavum, P. Madhavan Nairum opposite Mohanlal, which met with mixed reviews but was a box-office success. She was the leading lady in the 2014 Tamil horror-comedy Aranmanai, had a supporting role in Irumbu Kuthirai, did another Malayalam film named Rajadhi Raja and a Kannada movie titled Shrungara.
Raai Laxmi then signed the Malayalam films Arabian Safari Preview and Santhoshayi Gopiyetta in 2015. She also starred in the Tamil films Oru Ticketla Rendu Cinema, Sowkarpettai and Arjun, Divya Matrum Karthik. Laxmi then returned to Telugu filmdom in 2016 in another item number opposite Pawan Kalyan in Sardaar Gabbar Singh.
Raai Laxmi performed her third special song in the Tamil film Motta Shiva Ketta Shiva in May 2016, which starred frequent co-star Lawrence Raghavendra. It was a remake of the Telugu superhit Pataas. She did another item number opposite Chiranjeevi in his 150th film Khaidi No. 150, a Telugu remake of the Tamil hit Katthi, which starred Vijay.
Apart from Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam films, Raai Laxmi's Kannada screen credits include the 2005 short film Valmiki, which also marked her debut in the Sandalwood film industry, Snehana Preethina, Minchina Ota, Kalpana and Attahasa. She made her foray into Bollywood with the 2016 film Akira, starring Sonakshi Sinha. The film, which was a remake of the Tamil film Mouna Guru, featured Laxmi in an extended cameo.
Raai Laxmi debuted in Malayalam cinema with the 2007 Mohanlal starrer Rock & Roll followed by successful vehicles like Annan Thambi, 2 Harihar Nagar, Evidam Swargamanu, which again starred Mohanlal and Chattambinadu, in which she shared the screen opposite the legendary Mammootty. Laxmi appeared in a special song in the 2010 film In Ghost House Inn.
Before its release, Raai Laxmi's bold avatar caused an uproar on Twitter, possibly because the film would not have been passed if Pahlaj Nihalani was still heading CBFC. Laxmi said that she had to increase and lose weight several times for the film. As she was required to don a bikini in several scenes, the actress followed a strenuous fitness regime.
Raai Laxmi lost 15 kilos in two months. But it wasn't painless. She followed a strict diet and worked out for a toned body. It was physically and emotionally taxing for the actress.
Raai Laxmi starrer Julie 2, portrays the hardship faced by a new entrant in Bollywood. Just days before its release, three video clips of South siren Raai Laxmi's lovemaking scenes from the film reportedly leaked online. She responded to an entertainment portal regarding this in an interview, "I am busy promoting the film and wasn't even aware of this! I can't believe these scenes have leaked. It's ridiculous that someone would want to do this to the film before release."
The leaked scenes from Julie 2, apparently showed a close-up shot of Raai Laxmi indulging in passionate lovemaking, a second clip is that of her kissing, and the third one shows the actress smiling as the camera pans to her lower body.
When asked about Julie 2 being an erotic-thriller Raai Laxmi said, "The film is not mere skin show, but there is lots of drama and emotion to showcase my acting skills. It is a great opportunity to play such a role in Julie's sequel."
When asked about the bold scenes in Julie 2, including the ones showing her locking lips in the film, Raai Laxmi said, "If it is a kissing scene and you only show a peck, then the whole meaning and feeling will not translate onscreen. When the public finally sees that scene, they will feel cheated."
Further stating her opinion about cutting the length of lovemaking scenes, Laxmi Raai added, "I don't think anybody wants to waste footage. If you drag a kissing scene and keep rolling, eventually the people watching it will get bored. No one will do that deliberately. But if there is a long scene and that is what the filmmaker wants, you are only ruining his vision. Nobody watches films to see such stuff per se, they would then rather watch an adult film."
The story of the protagonist in Raai Laxmi starrer Julie 2, was apparently based on the life of a well-known glamorous actress of the 1990s and 2000s. The film's makers withheld her name to avoid legal trouble. Veteran Bollywood actress Shilpa Shirodkar has dubbed Laxmi's lines.
As a hint, the actress portrayed by Raai Laxmi in Julie 2 started her career with a Hindi film featuring one of the Khan superstars. But it was her booming career in the south, in Tamil and Telugu cinema, that made her a star. However, her affair with a married Tamil-Telugu superstar drove her out of the south Indian film industry and she went on to become a big name in Bhojpuri films.
Regarding her portrayal of a character based on a real person in Julie 2, Raai Laxmi said, "I am not denying the similarities between my character and the actress. These similarities are there. I don't know if they're deliberate or just a coincidence." However, Pahlaj Nihalani said, "It's definitely based on the actress.... In fact, one of the main actors who is a part of our cast was also involved with that actress. We are not naming her as we don't want our film to be stopped. But once the film opens next Friday, it will be obvious to all which real-life actress Raai Laxmi is playing."
There was increasing speculation that as per the hints provided by the makers of Julie 2, Raai Laxmi might be playing a character based on actress Nagma. To this, the latter said, "I have no knowledge about it and was not informed about it earlier. I am hearing this for the first time." The actress went on to say that since the film is nearing its release, the makers are using this angle as a mere tool of publicity.
"At this point of time, I cannot speak about it and it'll be unfair because the film hasn't released yet. Normally, I do catch up on films, but this interesting development will make me watch the film for sure. I will only talk after the release." Nagma said.
Pictured: Raai Laxmi
The release of Raai Laxmi-starrer Julie 2 was delayed as the film was caught in a legal battle due to the copyright case lodged by producer N.R. Pachisia. Pahlaj Nihalani and his director had to cough up a compensatory amount to be able to release the film on November 24, 2017.
"What we gave him was even less than the lawyer's fees. But what Pachisia has taken away is our faith in people from our own fraternity. Pachisia knows what producers have to go through when their films are stalled legally or otherwise at the last moment," said Pahlaj Nihalani about the legal tussle over Julie 2, starring Raai Laxmi.
"He still went ahead and filed a bogus case against our film claiming Julie 2 infringed on the copyrights of the film 'Julie' which Pachisia had produced in 2004. We kept shouting and vowing that 'Julie 2' had nothing to do with the film that he had produced," added former CBFC Chief Pahlaj Nihalani. Pictured: Raai Laxmi.
Pahlaj Nihalani, who presented Julie 2, starring Raai Laxmi, declared that the film is a clean, adult movie. He was slammed by women activists, who called him as someone who works on 'double standards' as Nihalani was in the news for censoring bold scenes in several films while he was the head of Censor Board.
Pahlaj Nihalani said that if he was the CBFC chief, he would have passed Julie 2 without cuts. When pointed out the blaring irony in the Raai Laxmi starrer's plot line and his 'sanskaari' ideology, and asked whether he would receive support from the industry for this film, Nihalani declared himself to be a 'soldier', ready to wage a lone war.
"I don't need industry support. If anybody has a problem with the content of the film, the matter can be taken up. I am ready to fight this battle alone. It is up to the CBFC to decide what to cut and what not to cut. I am not in that position anymore," Pahlaj Nihalani asserted.
Raai Laxmi is also known for her sensational social media photos. She was once linked to cricketer MS Dhoni. Rumours of them dating surfaced in 2008 during the IPL. Speaking about the link-up, Laxmi said, "My relationship with Dhoni has become like a scar, which will not go easily."
Raai Laxmi had stated in a recent interview that more than critical acclaim, box office collections matter to her. "I don't have much knowledge about box office numbers but single screen audiences are loving the film. There are people who will try to find logic, so it's a different set of audience altogether. I feel I purely have mass following," she said.
Raai Laxmi added, "Earlier, people thought that it was an erotic film so people were embarrassed to watch the film with their families, but after watching the film they know that it's not an erotic film. There are mixed reports for the film but I feel it is okay because it is not my first and last film. At the end of the day, more than critical acclaim, box office collections matter to me."
Raai Laxmi's upcoming projects include the Tamil films Cinderella and Neeya 2, and a Kannada film, Jhansi. We wish the gorgeous actress a very happy birthday!
South actress Raai Laxmi, popular for starring in several Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada films turns a year older today. Laxmi, who made her Bollywood debut as a leading lady in 2017 with Julie 2, set tongues wagging with her bold avatar in the film, along with other controversies that the movie faced during the time of its release. A look at her pictures...