Godfather Before Malik: Five Malayalam Films Inspired By Coppola’s Classic, Film Companion
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From Feroz Khan’s 1975 classic Dharmatma, the first Indian film to be based on The Godfatherto the most recent Fahad Faasil starrer Malik, Francis Ford Coppola’s classic has spawned innumerable remakes that are either fiercely loyal to the original or vague reinterpretations. If some films chose just one or two elements from the classic, others went ahead and repeated almost every single beat from Coppola. This is no different in Malayalam, even though none of these films can claim universal appeal or acclaim. Oddly, a film called Godfather, directed by Siddique-Lal, wasn’t an inspiration. Here’s a look at five such films, which arguably had more in common to the original than others.

Naduvazhikal

Up until Malik, Naduvazhikal was generally considered a satisfactory and successful iteration of 1972 film. It was also arguably the first to become a big success.
The story begins with the arrest of an aging business tycoon Ananthan (Madhu) upon which his son Arjun (Mohanlal) is asked to return home from his leisurely life in Bangalore. Arjun soon realises the conspiracy behind his father’s arrest and sets upon a goal to free his father, eventually tackling hurdles as he takes over the business.
What follows is how Arjun locks horns against his father’s enemies and the System that helps them. Written by S.N.Swami and Directed by Joshiy, Naduvazhigal is not a rehashed imitation of its source material but rather a well-inspired drama built upon the bare bones plot structure of The Godfather. 

Lelam

If Naduvazhigal replaced the mafia angle from The Godfather into a warring drama between two business factions, then Lelam made that a feud between two liquor barons. The Vito Corleone equivalent, Anakattil Eepachan played by veteran actor Soman in his last screen appearance, is a soaring patriarch and leading liquor baron. Eapachan’s rise to success irks the Kadayadi family who have been his long-standing adversaries. As Eepachan is killed, the responsibility of the family and businesses fall under the hands of his son Jacob Stephan (Suresh Gopi) lovingly called Anakkattil Chackochi.
How Chackochi outwits the hurdles laid by Kadayadis and seeks revenge over his father’s demise forms the rest of the film. Released in 1997, Lelam was one of director Joshiy’s commendable directorial films which was complemented by some fierce dialogues by Renji Panicker. The film turned out to be a huge success and gave Suresh Gopi his much-needed success after a string of duds. The sequence in which Eepachan reprimands his opponents during a compromise meeting manages to induce the same thrill that was felt during its theatrical release 24 years before.

The Prince

Having just completed the hugely-successful Baasha, director Suresh Krishna had the option of just about making any film he wanted with any star. Yet he chose to foray into Malayalam cinema for his next by roping in a star cast that included Mohanlal, Girish Karnad and Prakash Raj. This created huge pre-release buzz. But as fate would have it, the film was more pauper than prince.
The film takes a few plot points from The Godfather movies and stitches them into a story between two mafia factions. From Mohanlal’s character Jeeva, who hides his identity from his wife to the generation-long animosity between two aging mafia kingpins Vishwanath (Girish Karnad) and Rajashekharan (Spadikam George in a swanky Italiano outfit), the film is riddled with subplots that can put a true blue Nolan sympathizer to test. There is a sense of surreality when we realize that the iconic Iruvar also starred both Mohanlal and Prakash Raj (it released just five months after).

Simhasanam

If Naduvazhigal was more an inspired afterthought of The Godfather, then Simhasanam was an inspired abomination of both these films. Initially stated to be a rehashed version of Naduvazhikal, it later turned to be an unholy mix of The Godfather, Narasimham and Aaram Thamburan. Actor Sai Kumar plays the role of Chandragiriyil Madhava Menon, a kingmaker of sorts known by almost everyone from customs officials to bureaucrats and from inter-state thugs to politicians.
From resolving a political coup to restoring peace in the land, Madhava Menon seems to be the one-stop shop to solve every issue. Things get dicey when he is falsely accused and put behind bars. Now it is up to his son Arjun Madhavan (Prithviraj) to retrieve him from prison. He also has to tackles his father’s enemies while organising a local temple festival (*cough* Aaram Thapuran *cough* ). Released in 2012, Simhasanam became director Shaji Kailas’s unintended spoof of his own previous creations.

The Don

The USP of actor Dileep is his exceptional comic timing in counterintuitive humorous films such as Meesha Madhavan, and Thenkasipattanam apart from his ease at portraying convincing slapstick comedy roles in movies like CID Mossa and Ee Parakkum Thalika. In 2006, the actor experimented by collaborating with director Shaji Kailas in a full-fledged action role, arguably after seeing success with film like Runway.
The Don was Dileep’s first major attempt to transform himself into an action hero. The plot revolves around the character Unnikrishnan, a thug with a dark past who ends up becoming Salaam, a trusted lieutenant to the godfather-Esque Kasim Baba played by actor Lal. Kasim Baba is killed and the blame falls upon Salaam/Unnikrishnan. How Salaam proves his innocence and avenges his mentor’s death forms the rest of the plot. From the predictable plot and a stale screenplay that relentlessly borrows sequences from the Telugu hit Athadu (starring Mahesh Babu) with Dileep’s “Why so serious?” performance made the film sleep with the fishes. The film also has a theme music which puts up a stiff competition against the theme of The Prince.
Which other Malayalam films would you add to this list for its similarities?

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