Godfather review: This Chiranjeevi remake has some fresh ideas but still flounders

Director Mohan Raja seems to have been torn between his instincts to make a solid political thriller and the compulsions to pander to his leading man’s fanbase.
Chiranjeevi in Godfather
Chiranjeevi in Godfather
Written by:

Mohan Raja’s Godfather is a remake of the blockbuster Mohanlal film Lucifer. But while it borrows the broad premise of the Malayalam original and has retained some of the key scenes, there are also quite a few departures. The time for frame-by-frame copycat films has come and gone and as far as remakes are concerned, rewriting the film is the right way to go about it.

Lucifer, directed by Prithviraj, was a fanboy tribute to Mohanlal’s mass action films. It was about the upheavals in a political family following the death of its patriarch. But more than the twists and turns in the plot, you walked out of the theatre remembering how many times Mohanlal as Stephen Nedumpally had folded his mundu in slow-motion shots. Godfather doesn’t crush on its leading man as much. The pretentious Biblical allusions in the original find no place here – Chiranjeevi’s character is called Brahma, and he’s fittingly omniscient and omnipresent.

Andhra CM PKR dies unexpectedly and his party is in danger of splintering. The possible next-in-line candidates are minister Varma (Murali Sharma), son-in-law Jai (Satyadev), and PKR’s close confidante Brahma (Chiranjeevi). There’s also PKR’s daughter Satya (Nayanthara), who cannot stand Brahma because of their intertwined childhood and her father’s love towards the boy.

Though Chiranjeevi is strangely wooden, Murali Sharma and Satyadev are marvellous in their respective roles as scheming, devious men. Satyadev, especially, is a huge improvement on Vivek Oberoi who played the antagonist in Lucifer. As the manipulative Jai who wins Satya’s trust easily, Satyadev gets a bigger role in the remake and does justice to it. Murali Sharma is effortlessly funny as always – nobody can quite pull off the sourpuss face as he can. Samuthirakani and Puri Jagannadh also do well in their brief roles.

When Mohan Raja is making a political thriller, he is in command. The chessboard manoeuvres with MLAs and the cat-and-mouse game between Jai and Brahma are entertaining. The jail scene when Jai visits Brahma or the film that Varma screens for the MLAS are two such examples. It is when the director tries to balance the plot with the need to showcase Chiranjeevi’s superstardom that he slips. The harmless references to Chiranjeevi hits like Gang Leader or the number 786 on his prison uniform (from Khaidi No.786) are all right. But the over-the-top action sequences look dated – at least Mohanlal had his mundu as the prop while doing these. Chiranjeevi in a kurta-pyjama just looks like he’s been transported to the ‘80s and ‘90s. And not in a good way.

Mohan Raja seems to have been torn between his instincts to make a solid political thriller and the compulsions to pander to his leading man’s fanbase. The megastar still has good screen presence but he struggles to emote. The badass attitude that Mohanlal wore on his sleeve in Lucifer is missing from Chiranjeevi’s performance, and that proves to be the film’s biggest minus. He is convincing in scenes that require subtlety but looks frozen when he has to project a larger-than-life image. He roars but you don’t feel a thing.

Nayanthara has a meatier role than Manju Warrier did in Lucifer. While the latter had a grown daughter in the original, the Lady Superstar gets a sister by her side in this sober, subdued role. One wishes though that the script wasn’t so forgiving towards her father PKR – the man cheats on his wife, fathers a child without her knowledge, and is also responsible for the accident that leads to her death. Yet, everyone in the film treats him with nothing short of reverence, including his children. How eager we are to forgive men on screen and off it for their lapses!

Salman Khan’s cameo is unintentionally hilarious. The VFX is so bad that it looks like a low budget spoof of James Bond movies. The ‘Thaar Maar Thakkar Maar’ song is fun to watch but by the time the film gets there, it stops being about politics, family or anything else – it’s about two aged superstars partying on screen. The indulgence would have been forgivable if it hadn’t derailed the screenplay that was mostly cogent until then. And though you have Chiranjeevi AND Salman Khan on screen, it’s apparently not enough – you still need an item number to amp up the machismo. The second half meanders from one “mass” moment to another, making the film unnecessarily long and bloated. Tighter editing would have certainly helped.

‘Lucifer’ is another name for the devil while ‘Godfather’ is, well, is a ‘70s American film that our directors cannot get enough of. Chiranjeevi’s Brahma doesn’t like narcotics, same as Vito Corleone; he’s also a family man like the original don. However, while we’re supposed to believe Brahma is a very dangerous man with a wide criminal network, the film doesn’t really tell us how and why beyond some Interpol officers having embarrassing conversations. Mohanlal’s Lucifer, at least, displayed some of his wickedness on screen, but Brahma is more god-like than godfather-like.

The problem with Lucifer was that it pretended to be smarter than it was. If it worked, it was because of Mohanlal’s swag. Godfather doesn’t make the mistake of priding itself on its intellect, and the writing is better than the original. But it still flounders because of its inconsistent tone and a tired Chiranjeevi.

Sowmya Rajendran writes on gender, culture and cinema. She has written over 25 books, including a nonfiction book on gender for adolescents. She was awarded the Sahitya Akademi’s Bal Sahitya Puraskar for her novel Mayil Will Not Be Quiet in 2015.

Disclaimer: This review was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Neither TNM nor any of its reviewers have any sort of business relationship with the film’s producers or any other members of its cast and crew.

Related Stories

No stories found.
The News Minute