Cast: Mohanlal, Manju Warrier, Tovino Thomas, Indrajith
Right from the day Prithviraj was signed on to direct Mohanlal, he has repeatedly said that he wanted to make a movie worthy of Mohanlal, a movie in which the actor would be portrayed the way Prithviraj wanted to see him. With Lucifer, it's fair to say that he has delivered. The film is a riveting political drama that ticks all the boxes of a commercial blockbuster.
Prithviraj has gone big with his first film and the ambition is there for all to see. The first half of the movie is built on a tight plot, even though the second half, especially towards the tail-end, is found wanting.
Mohanlal delivers a strong performance as Stephen Nedumpally, a power broker, but his character is not as grey as the trailer suggests. While the decision to make Mohanlal's character stoic seems conscious, it robs us of the chance to see beyond the one-liners and quotable quotes he delivers
The film opens with the death of a political stalwart, P.K. Ramdas, which creates a vacuum in the State and what ensues is a fight for power with the leader's children Priyadarshini (Manju Warrier) and Jathin Ramdas (Tovino), son-in-law Bobby (Vivek Oberoi) and prominent politicos Mahesha Varma (Saikumar) and Medayil Rajan (Shivaji Guruvayoor) all at the heart of a power grab. Mohanlal (Stephen Nedumpally), the righthand man of the fallen stalwart, is drawn into the murky affairs and is keen to keep greedy sharks at bay.
Mohanlal delivers a strong performance as Stephen Nedumpally, a power broker, but his character is not as grey as the trailer suggests. While the decision to make Mohanlal's character stoic seems conscious, it robs us of the chance to see beyond the one-liners and quotable quotes he delivers. There is an air of invincibility or rather a lack of vulnerability that holds Mohanlal's character back. Style comes easy to Mohanlal and that is evident throughout his performance.
The film is filled with biblical references and the attempt to establish the motif of Mohanlal as a version of Lucifer seems forced. The theme is justified in only one scene where Mohanlal (death) appears at the doorstep of a dying policeman. Lucifer is referenced as a fallen angel and a devil (Satan) in different versions of mythology. In the movie, the makers rather than sticking to one version, attempts to draw from both wells, blurring it further.
Manju Warrier has a lot of heavily charged scenes afforded to her but it would have been nice to see more shades to her character and perhaps even a little more exploration into the background of her marriage. Vivek Oberoi (Bobby) delivers a knockout performance as the wily son-in-law who wants to use Kerala as a backyard for drug peddling. He holds his own while sharing screen space with the likes of Mohanlal and Manju Warrier. Much credit should be given to the dubbing performance in the case of Vivek Oberoi's character. Prithviraj does a star turn as Zayed Masood, but he limits his role to a cameo and offers Mohanlal the centre-stage.
The film is filled with biblical references and the attempt to establish the motif of Mohanlal as a version of Lucifer seems forced. The theme is justified in only one scene where Mohanlal (death) appears at the doorstep of a dying policeman
Tovino makes his entry halfway through the movie with a look that is a throwback to his ABCD character. He has impactful bursts in the second half and his political speech is a clever piece of writing and one of the better scenes in the movie. Barring the final aerial shot during the speech, the crowds looked legit and engaging. It felt like a missed opportunity to not see Tovino branch out his own to claim a shot at the political throne. Govardhan (Indrajith), a pursuer of truth, with books of Julian Assange and Snowden on his desk, is used as a narration tool but is otherwise a sketchy and convenient character to drive the plot.
The narrative pace of the movie is brilliant barring a few occasions where it accommodates a few excesses to deliver mass moments. In a couple of scenes, it felt like Mohanlal's aura on screen alone was enough to amplify a punch moment but was still unnecessarily accompanied by a jarring background score. Murali Gopy takes his time to introduce his characters (Mohanlal makes his entry after a good 15 minutes) and pursues various story threads to develop a good foundation for the plot. The transition between timelines is also smooth. You can't help but wonder what Murali Gopy would do if given a shot at writing a TV series around a plot of this proportion. Murali Gopy's fascination with manufactured news continues here (after Kammara Sambhavam) but one distasteful scene was where the narration uttered the word 'bitch' before cutting to the shot of a woman working in a TV channel.
Despite being nearly three hours long, editor Samjith Mohammed has maintained a tight narrative pace throughout the film, making it very engaging. Cinematographer Sujith Vaassudev, who has worked with Mohanlal in Drishyam and Prithviraj in a string of movies including Ezra, James and Alice and Anarkali uses constant movement as a way to keep the audience on edge. The camera moving along with the elderly lady delivering tea at a old-age home/orphanage is one of the shots that stick with you. Another highlight of the film was the locations and art direction. Right from the fight scene in jail, the forest locations and the cricket stadium, it all adds to the feel of the film.
While the movie does have a lot of clichés, what's pleasantly surprising is the quirky twists and turns the movie takes, keeping you hooked all along. Lucifer has a host of characters who leave a mark on the movie despite their limited screenspace. The likes of Baiju, Suresh Chandra Menon, Saniya Iyappan, Murugan, Shaun Romy, Aneesh C Menon, John Vijay and Nandhu all make most of their roles. Baiju lends a lighter feel to the drama with his banter throughout the movie. Though the movie is set against a backdrop of State politics, it doesn't really get political beyond the struggle for power.
Fazil makes a return to the screen featuring as a pastor in a minor role and it's an absolute trip to watch Mohanlal and Fazil share screenspace. It brings to mind the duo's iconic scene in Nokkethadhoorathu Kannum Nattu where Fazil narrates his sexcapades to a young and excited Mohanlal. The feeling of nostalgia doesn't end there as Prithviraj gets Mohanlal to utter one of the latter's memorable lines from yesteryear blockbuster Irupatham Nootandu.
The climax of the movie was a bit disappointing as it seemed removed from the political drama and relocated to another scene and thread altogether. Prithviraj attempts to reach a crescendo with a final flourish set against the backdrop of an item song and falls short. The song is out of place in the movie and is also very poorly choreographed, without a catchy tune either. The music, in general, seemed jarring and was a letdown from Deepak Dev.
Lucifer is a clichéd plot written cleverly and delivered with aplomb. Prithviraj makes an assured directorial debut with the film that was high on budget and expectation. The movie has lived up to the hype and will set the box office cash registers ringing for long.