Deepika Padukone has left everyone speechless as she revealed the first look of Chhapaak, wherein she plays acid attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal. Directed by Meghna Gulzar, the team is currently shooting in Delhi. Deepika’s onscreen character goes by the name of Malti. Deepika’s first glimpse gives a positive vibe with hope in her eyes. From dealing with the massive change in her life, to mothering daughter and rising like a phoenix, yet again from financial hurdles, here’s all you need to know about Laxmi, the real-life survivor who inspired this biopic.
Laxmi Agarwal was a teenager, all of 16 years, she faced the wrath of a 32-year-old man. Since Laxmi had rejected the advances of her stalker, he threw acid on her face, denting her life forever. “After the attack, I was admitted to the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital and stayed there for nearly three months. There were no mirrors in the ward I was in. Every morning, the nurse would bring me a bowl of water to help me freshen up, and I would try to catch my reflection in that water. I would only see glimpses of a bandaged face. I used to have a scar on my nose before the attack; I would tell the doctor to remove that during the operation. When I first saw my face afterwards, I was devastated. I had no face to speak of. My eyes were misshapen,” she had told The Indian Express.
Struggle with law
Post the incident, Laxmi underwent several surgeries and also campaigned for acid attack survivors. She filed a Public Interest Litigatio in the Supreme Court in 2006, joining hands with another victim, Rupa. Their efforts paid off with a massive ruling. SC passed an interim order banning over-the-counter sale of acid at retail outlets, adding that a compensation of Rs 3 lakh to be paid to each acid attack victim.
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Campaigning for the cause
In 2013, Laxmi became joined Stop Acid Attacks campaign with 25 acid attack survivors and they started meeting regularly in their New Delhi office. “On the first day, it was very unsettling to meet others. For so long I thought I was alone in this sadness. But when we met the second time, we were unstoppable. We went to watch a cricket match. Without our veils,” Laxmi told Washington Post.
Laxmi continued to crusade for acid attack victims, which won her international recognition. In 2014, Laxmi was felicitated by then US First Lady Michelle Obama for successfully leading the campaign against acid attacks on women in India. Laxmi was honoured with the International Women of Courage Award.
2014 came as a ray of new hope for Laxmi as she not just found a job, but also a loving partner. She received a call from a news channel, offering her the job of an anchor. While initially it seemed like a hoax, it turned out to be a real good opportunity. Also, Laxmi fell in love with 26-year-old Alok Dixit, the duo had worked together on Stop Acid Attacks campaign. “I was attracted to her courage. She is an exceptional young woman and for me, she is beautiful,” Dixit told PEOPLE. The couple made headlines with their decision to live-in and not marry and turned parents in 2015 with the birth of their daughter Pihu.
However, owning to some differences, Laxmi and Alok parted ways after the birth of their daughter. Laxmi got the custody of their daughter but went through a difficult time raising her. “People believe that I must be well-off since I received so many awards, walked the ramps, gave talks – but I have no money to meet even my basic needs,” Laxmi was quoted by Hindustan Times. In 2018, the acid attack survivor revealed that she was without a job and partner Alok was too, was reportedly helpless and didn’t have money to provide financial assistance to Laxmi for their child. “I am educated till the 10th standard, but am a trained beautician and can communicate well. But my face becomes a hurdle when I ask for any job at any beauty parlour, as they say customers will get scared of my looks. I applied at a call centre and told them that the customers wouldn’t see my face, but they replied that ‘to get a job, I need to have a face to begin with’,” Laxmi was quoted in the report. Job offers and help soon poured in for the brave heart with several people depositing money in her account, including Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar who provided financial aid of Rs 5 lakh.
Laxmi’s story of grit and determination will now be immortalised in the silver screen with Deepika Padukone set to play her role in Chhapaak. It remains to be seen how much of Laxmi’s real life will be intertwined into the reel story.
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