Director: Prithviraj Sukumaran
Cast: Mohanlal, Manju Warrier, Indrajith, Tovino Thomas
At least twenty minutes before the curtain falls on Lucifer, the film’s prime villain is on the edge of doom. He has lost the final strand of political power he had, is sunk in a financial liability he might never be able to settle, and there are mighty sharks waiting to bite his head off. You wonder what could the film’s hero, Stephen/Esthappan (Mohanlal), invest the rest of his screen time in. Isn’t his mission in the film over? Enter a team of scantily-clad women who shake a leg to an ‘item song’ as the camera scans their bodies for close-ups of cleavage and thighs. Outside the dance venue, Stephen and his bunch of smartly-dressed henchmen start another round of high-octane fight that is utterly inconsequential to the plot, like the dance, but inserted into the narrative to satiate the “mass” audience.
While it might seem that the indigenous mass-masala genre works in a definite pattern, perfecting its alchemy can be an excruciating task. When should the hero be ‘introduced’ to the narrative, and how long should the ‘introduction shot’ be? Who must he fight – situations, social corruption or individuals? Where must the subtle narrative pauses – for the audience to cheer and hoot – be dropped? Should the film submit to the gallery using elements such as an item song, or should it aspire for an afterlife beyond its theatre run with a cohesive and layered screenplay?
In his directorial debut, actor Prithviraj takes the safer road, and narrates an ever-familiar story. The head of a high-profile political family (that bears uncanny resemblances to the Congress’ first family) dies. As many sinister outsiders, including the dead man’s son-in-law, start plotting to make use of the vacuum that his death created, the loyalest aide of the dead man emerges to guard his master’s children and legacy. Joshiy’s Naran and Anwar Rasheed’s Rajamanikyam had a similar theme. While they narrated stories within the mass genre using humour, Prithviraj employs gravitas and grey tones. Faux ominous background scores underscore almost every scene, and unreasonable slow-motion shots are aplenty. Most of the characters behave with a sense of self-importance and pretension – their body-language is stiff and ceremonious, as though they know that they are inside an important movie.
Lucifer is poorly edited. There are several abrupt cuts and unwarranted digressions that affect the flow of narration. The film’s initial thirty minutes, before Stephen appears, is a jumble. The chief minister of Kerala, PK Ramdas, has died, and mayhem has broken out in front of the hospital where his body is. Meanwhile, Govardhan (Indrajith), a citizen journalist, starts a live video on Facebook, to tell the world of the five people who could be Ramdas’ political successor. Govardhan’s wildly hilarious and quirky speech is cut several times to digress to long-winded scenes, perhaps an attempt to cram into the narrative as much information as possible before the hero makes his entry. This shoddy editing pattern and Sujith Vassudev’s unremarkable camera work also render the film’s many action sequences rather underwhelming.
Stephen is an old-fashioned mass hero like Sagar (Irupatham Noottandu) or Vincent Gomas (Rajavinte Makan) – a don with a heart of pure gold. He lives in (and runs) a charitable home in a high-land hamlet. Every night, he narrates bed-time stories to the Home’s children who call him “Esthappan”. There is a nod to Arundhati Roy – one of the children is named Rahel. Stephen is a politician with an astounding ground support that is a matter of concern for his rivals in the party. As the film proceeds, we learn that he is a sharp shooter, is not averse to getting into a fight and killing (he shoots down some 20 goons in a fight sequence, and beats up a cop who hurts his beloved Rahel), and has close connections with a very notorious international gang of assassins. While the film obsesses over Stephen’s ever-expanding skill-set and the magnitude of his power, it pays little attention to constructing an antagonist who can pose this man the slightest threat. All we get is a frivolous character, Bimal Nair (Vivek Oberoi), a not-so-smart business man who botches up every task that he takes up.
One of few standout sequences in the film belongs to two women. Jahnvi (Saniya Iyyappan), a teenager, breaks down in front of her mother, Priyadarshini (Manju Warrier) and confides in her an ugly secret about her step father. The two artistes are brilliantly restrained in the scene. Tovino Thomas plays Priyadarshini’s brother, Jatin, an NRI who steps into politics to fill the shoes of his father. His screen-time is the shortest, but he walks away with the hippest scene in the film.
Mohanlal, the superstar actor can rarely go wrong in scenes of heightened drama. Unlike someone like Rajinikanth, Lal’s acting style doesn’t resemble a choreographed piece. He doesn’t resort to exaggerated mannerisms or make painful efforts to look young on screen. He is effortlessly himself in Lucifer, and that’s the best part of the film. Lucifer has many scenes designed like a tribute to his long-standing acting career – like when he calls narcotics a dirty business (a nod to Irupatham Noottandu), or the scene where he singlehandedly confronts a gang of henchmen inside a garage in the jail compound. It is sheer fun to watch him walk that road once again, albeit in a mediocre movie.
The Lucifer review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.