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May 18, 2019

A review of Prithviraj's and Mohanlal's Lucifer

What is in a name? Mohanlal by any other name would be just as magnificent, then let's call him Lucifer. Lucifer is a sophisticated sobriquet with devilish undertones and would appeal to the masses for its coolness quotient. The man has carried off exemplary titles like Ravanaprabhu, Narasimham, Pulimurugan, Madampi, Paradesi, Nattu Rajavu, Neerali, Peruchazhi, Bhagavan, Villain, Udayon and Odiyan with great success.

It is perfectly alright if we have to introduce an unnecessary character to tie the name Lucifer to the movie's leading man and the story. Indrajith does an excellent job as slightly off-the-rocker journalist though. Collateral damages to the script and credibility are totally irrelevant when you are making super hero movies. I've given up on Murali Gopi scripts after Tiyaan.

Prithviraj, the new director on the block is a man synonymous with style. He has injected himself into the plot as the dashing international assassin with the killer looks of Backstreet Boys, Sayed Masood. He kills it with style and a couple of sentences in Hindi. The story line could have done without this lady-killer, but this is Prithviraj's directorial venture, who would say no if he desires to play a two-bit part? I would not, not to such eye-candy.

All said and done Prithviraj respectfully relinquishes the screen-space to the greatness that is Mohanlal. But not without inducting few other style icons into the boys club - Tovino Thomas as the heir apparent and a suave and smooth villain - Vivek Oberoi. It is a hunk-fest, if you can ignore Mohanlal. Manju Warrier is an important piece in this political drama but as a woman, she is cast in the damsel in distress mold, just like other underlings - their sole purpose is to put themselves in dire situations and patiently wait for Lucifer to rescue them.

As Malayalam cinema's one and only white man savior (post 2000s) Mohanlal aka Lucifer arrives without fail to rescue his helpless sheeple. He is the hero Kerala deserves, but not the one it needs it right now - try telling that to Malayali movie-goers.The flick of the mundu, the underside of his footwear, the jeep, his 360 degree vision, scowling jowls - are all used in the right measure to establish Lucifer's super-hero status. CGI crowds roar as he performs feats of exceptionalism with or without firearms or plucks a dialog out of thin air and delivers centuries old political wisdom to a bewildered opposition.

This is a Prithviraj play-it-safe movie, I hope it is because it is his first film as a director. He uses all the elements that will keep the box office ringing, including the choice of Mohanlal for the hero. The established brand-recognition of Mohanlal and the assurance of success it gives, is hard to ignore for a newbie director with deep-pocketed producers to back him up.

The way I see it, it is a world-wide trend. As nations get swept up in the conservative wave where power is concentrated in a few people or the top 1%, every movie features exceptional lead characters with super human abilities, touted as the only ones who have the power to change the world. Mohanlal movies of late are all of this genre, only thing that he is missing from his Hollywood counterparts is a latex suit. These movies reinforce in the mind of their audience that community action or collective effort cannot bring about advancement, it can only happen if you have powerful, exceptionally talented individuals on your side. They could be called Satan or Dark Knight, but long as you are in their good books, you are safe.

On another note, I really wish Mohanlal had gone on vanaprastham after his 1999 movie Vanaprastham. IMHO, it is his last good movie. Twenty years of great movies from a great actor, then twenty plus years of mediocre to bad movies from an actor sliding down the acting scale.