In Mohanlal’s highly-stylised political thriller and melodrama ‘Lucifer’, there’s a sea of men wearing crisp white shirts and white mundu (Kerala’s traditional garb), but their warped actions are in direct contrast to their pristine wardrobe choice.
The key players in this star-driven vehicle are morally ambiguous and merrily Machiavellian.
Actor Prithviraj Sukumaran’s directorial debut drives home the perception that politics can be a dirty game in a snazzy but long-winded way. With a run time of more than 160 minutes, ‘Lucifer’ is compelling and cathartic in parts, but deeply flawed too.
In Prithviraj’s world, the characters kill, maim and double-cross in their pursuit of power and they do it in a slow-motion, dramatic crescendo. The director, who is an A-list actor, seems to have channelled his inner Amal Neerad, another Malayalam director known for his highly stylistic films.
The first 20 minutes, which lay the foundation of the principal characters and their back stories, are painfully pretentious.
There are times when ‘Lucifer’ comes across as an unapologetic vanity project to showcase Mohanlal, the superstar, and his fist-pumping histrionics like tucking in his mundu before bashing up the bad guys and twirling his moustache. Mohanlal plays the larger-than-life title role with incredible street cred. With just one call from a jail in Kerala, the all-conquering hero Lucifer can obliterate a smoothly-run drug empire run in Mumbai with dandily-dressed henchmen doing the dirty work.
Written by Murali Gopy, ‘Lucifer’s’ most banal dialogues like ‘the battle isn’t about good vs evil, but evil vs evil here’ will have soaring music and slick camera work. But the degree to which you will enjoy this film depends entirely on how much you adore Mohanlal.
If you can stomach a 58-year-old hero kicking the baddies, by folding his white mundu, revealing his hairy thighs and showing us a peek of his white underpants, then you are in the right place. The majority of Mohanlal’s punchlines land, but they overdo it towards the end. There’s an aura of mystery around Lucifer and director Prithviraj does a good job of keeping the suspense alive.
However, if you are looking for a riveting storyline about the murky power games in dynasty politics and an astute commentary on how political campaigns are funded by criminals, then you are barking up the wrong family tree. Everything you see in the film is strictly superficial. There’s not much depth to bite into.
This one is a mother of all Mohanlal potboilers where collective forces are at work to glorify the superstar’s legendary swagger. His punchlines often precede a pretentious quote from scriptures, but if you can get your head out of all those wordy dialogues, you might find yourself whistling.
In terms of star power, there’s no beating ‘Lucifer’.
To watch top Malayali talent Manju Warrier as a grieving daughter of a political leader, who dies suddenly, leaving a political vacuum in her family and her political outfit, is pure gold. Warrier as a troubled mother and wife Priyadarshani — who unearths a string of dark secrets within her family circles — is heartbreaking. In limited screen-time, she comes across as a paragon of vulnerability and strength — an indication to the strength of her acting prowess.
Bollywood actor Vivek Oberoi is suitably effective in his role as a smarmy, sharp-suited power broker.
But it’s actor Indrajith as a fearless, unhinged Khadi-wearing vigilante who gets my vote. Even in a half-baked role, Indrajith shines bright. Tovino Thomas — as the heir apparent to a political dynasty — is spot-on. You see a bit of soul in him, amidst all that swagger.
Actor Saikumar, who plays a manipulative politician, is also impressive and manages to hold his own in an ensemble drama.
Don’t be surprised if the movie reminds you of the parallels between India’s iconic Gandhi political dynasty and the fictional one in ‘Lucifer’.
Be warned, ‘Lucifer’s’ flashy story isn’t likely to blow your mind away, but it doesn’t bore you to death either. Watch this political thriller if you are a true blue Mohanlal fan. ‘Lucifer’ is singularly focused in making Mohanlal shine and will whet the appetite of a fan.
Don’t miss it!
Director: Prithviraj Sukumaran
Actors: Mohanlal, Manju Warrier, Tovino Thomas, Saikumar
Stars: 3 out of 5