Nayanthara, Satyadev Kancharana, Salman Khan and others play pivotal roles in this Mohan Raja directorial
It’s not the easiest of tasks to please a viewer with the remake of a much-celebrated film, irrespective of the efforts that go into offering a new product. It demands immense clarity from a filmmaker to be cognizant of the strengths and the follies of the original and tailor its new cousin to the tastes of his audience. With the remake of Mohanlal’s Lucifer, the challenge is even bigger because it had married classy storytelling with all the ingredients of a mass vehicle - a delicate balance that director Prithviraj Sukumaran miraculously managed to achieve in his debut directorial effort.
With Godfather, director Mohan Raja had claimed that it would please first-time viewers and also those who’d watched Lucifer. One can’t help but disagree with his statement here. Lucifer may be a mainstream film, but, on a lot of occasions, it left something to the imagination of the viewer. Godfather doesn’t try to hide any of its layers - the director peels the banana and offers it to the viewer and asks him to only enjoy it and not think. Neither of the approaches is wrong but it’s a matter of taste; one can’t fault it but just respect it.
If you hold Lucifer too close to your heart, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll appreciate Godfather. The writer of this story too was initially a victim of having revered Lucifer so much that he couldn’t look past it while watching Godfather in theatres. However, while catching Godfather on Netflix post its OTT release, where he was at the liberty of ‘having already formed an opinion about it’, the experience worked much better. Godfather’s main aims are to celebrate Chiranjeevi and be an unabashed mass-pleasing film and it succeeds in its task despite a few hiccups in the path.
Chiranjeevi in Godfather appears to have good fun because he’s not under the pressure to do the heavy lifting. The composer S Thaman, the dialogue writer Lakshmi Bhupala and the supporting cast comprising Sunil, Brahmaji, Shafi, Sammeta Gandhi, Divi Vadthya, Sarvadaman Banerjee and others do the job for him. The celebratory action sequences, the deep intense stares and the effective dialogue modulation work well for the star. Embracing the greys, donning black shades, walking with a flamboyance and being at ease with himself, Chiranjeevi looks extremely comfortable in this universe, as if he’s saying, ‘Come on boys, it’s time for some fun.’
The essence of the film is best summarised in the initial quotes - ‘He, who saves the people, is the king. He, who saves the king, is anonymous.’ There’s a lot of grace attached to Brahma as a character. Being a stepson, he doesn’t let the bitterness of his trauma get to him, is not seeking power or credit, but will go to any extent to ensure that the dignity of the throne is not compromised. As a character, his purpose is to ensure the larger well-being of his family. His intention to make money as a gangster is to empower his father’s political party and further his intentions. Justifying his stance, Brahma says, ‘to fight darkness, you need to become one with it.’
One of the main issues with Godfather as a film is the absence of a strong opponent to Brahma. There’s not a single problem that he can’t solve. He’s barely made to sweat and is constantly ‘as cool as cucumber.’ However, within the limitations of the script, Satyadev is the best thing to have happened to Godfather. He’s an out-and-out dark villain and there’s no pretence at all. As Jaidev, he’s greedy for power and he’d do anything to reach there, from killing his kin and kith to distracting them with his antics and striking deals with the underworld.
When the film restricts itself to the world of Jaidev and his better half Satyapriya, Godfather soars. The strategies that Brahma employs to ensure Satyapriya remains in control of her father PKR’s party are intriguing and hold the narrative together. Restraint is the greatest strength of Satyadev and Nayanthara, who bring these parts to life. The body language and the charisma of their characters aren’t on the face and it takes some effort to attain that self-control as a performer.
Another casting choice that works for Godfather is that of Puri Jagannadh as the journalist Govardhan. It’s easy to buy him as a voice that’s unafraid to question and speak the truth; the sequence where he questions Brahma about his wealth acquisition in the jail catches your attention. On the technical front, the cinematography by Nirav Shah and Suresh Selvarajan’s production design make an impact. The duo lends a regal touch to the house and the party office of PKR. By all means, the visuals suggest that it’s an empire with a sense of sophistication. The imaginative lighting in the final stretch, where Brahma is envisioned as the light amidst the darkness, is another major highlight.
When Thaman doesn’t go all ballistic to celebrate Chiranjeevi, his music score strikes a chord. A key reason why you’ll appreciate Godfather in the second viewing is the dialogues by Lakshmi Bhupala. The lines are minimalistic in the need of the hour, but there’s also terrific wordplay with mythological leanings and a literary richness that’s hardly visible in mainstream films. Anasuya and Tanya Ravichandran make their presence felt in cameos too. Godfather falls apart in the final stretches because it tries too hard to give importance to Salman Khan beyond the story. And can we, at least, admit now that Thaar Maar Thakkar Maar’s choreography was underwhelming?
Director Mohan Raja, with the experience of helming a handful of Telugu remakes in Tamil, knows the pulse of his viewers, the tone and the treatment that they appreciate. Godfather is a welcome break for Chiranjeevi from the song-dance-fight routine (of course, he still finds a way to bring them into the picture) to a major extent. If the response to the film in theatres was mixed, the OTT release offers an opportunity to set that record straight.
(Godfather is streaming in Hindi and Telugu on Netflix)