Loaded with swagger, action, and ‘masala’ entertainment, Mohan Raja’s latest release GodFather, the Telugu remake of the 2019 Malayalam film Lucifer, is testimony to Chiranjeevi’s stardom and pan-India popularity. The fact stands despite the actor’s nonchalant ambitions: “Working with [S.S.] Rajamouli and becoming pan-India [actor] are not on my wishlist,” he had said during a recent interview with Film Companion.
Lucifer was the directorial debut for Malayalam superstar Prithviraj Sukumaran. With the legendary actor Mohanlal Viswanathan playing the titular role, the film was a box office hit. Does the remake oust the original? Yes and no.
Over the years, Raja has earned the reputation of a ‘remake specialist’ with successful movies such as M. Kumaran Son of Mahalakshmi (2004) and Santosh Subramaniam (2008). With GodFather, barring flaky moments here and there, Raja has managed to pull off a full masala entertainer.
The plot revolves around Brahma, a.k.a. Godfather (Chiranjeevi), a mysterious man with political clout in an unidentified town in Andhra Pradesh. After the incumbent chief minister PKR (Sarvadaman Banerjee) passes away, the contention for the hot seat triggers a series of events involving power-hungry party members. The chief minister’s daughter Satya Priya (Nayanthara), her stepbrother Brahma, and her husband Jai (Satya Dev) are primary contenders for the post. Jai has plans to smuggle drugs in the garb of becoming the CM. The rest of the story circles around his attempts to gain power while Brahma leaves no stone unturned to stop him.
Remakes are tricky feats
Making remakes is no mean feat. An audience, which has already relished the original film, may choose to not spend money unless the latter is more promising with, say, better script or cinematography.
In GodFather, Raja and his team have attempted to do just the same.
Certain elements like the limited arc of Tovino Thomas’s character in Lucifer have altogether been eliminated in the Telugu version. Does it work? Definitely — it refines and accentuates Nayanthara’s character in GodFather. But half-baked antagonists and their caricature-ish treatment in the Telugu film are outdated to watch. While the background score elevates the mood and tonality of the film, the climax song is rudimentary at best. Playing Blast Baby — an ‘item song’ in GodFather — during a crucial scene is a reminder of why filmmakers should abandon such songs altogether.
Chiranjeevi’s eyes do the talking
Sukumaran’s Stephen in Lucifer is Raja’s Brahma in GodFather. Interestingly, both characters are men of few words. A scene where Jai confronts Brahma in a prison in GodFather is powerful not because of ‘dialogue-baazi’ but Chiranjeevi’s presence in the room. The camera keeps zooming into his face, but he does not utter a single word. Just with the barest eye movement, he conveys it all. His electric screen presence is a charismatic blend of vulnerability, anguish, and badassery.
Salman Khan, who has a guest appearance in GodFather, receives limelight that competes with Chiranjeevi’s on screen. He does what he does best — action dipped into a generous amount of swag. Nayanthara, too, is always a delight to watch. Among the supporting cast, Satya Dev steals the show. Vivek Oberoi, who played the original character in Lucifer, wasn’t bad at all. But Satya Dev interprets and portrays the character differently without turning it into a stereotype.
While Lucifer was every bit engaging owing to Mohanlal’s ‘massy’ portrayal, Godfather is loaded with dollops of slo-mo sequences and swag, all serving to the megastardom of Chiranjeevi.
(Edited by Humra Laeeq)