Prithviraj almost nails it in his debut as director, in an attempt to whip up a wholesome south indian thali he serves the tangy sambar and a pungent rasam a bit too often and getting to the final dessert takes a while.
Edappal Ponnamkuzhi Veetil Sukumaran Nair or just Sukumaran was one of the unsung actors in Malayalam cinema in the decades from the 70s to the mid nineties. Most of his turns were in commercial potboilers in tandem with Prem Nazir and Jayan all three stalwarts in their own right. A brilliant performer and remembered by his colleagues and friends as a gentle and compassionate human being, Sukumaran was on the cusp of doing remarkable character roles till his untimely passing away when only in his late forties.
His son Prithviraj Sukumaran took his baby steps in filmdom in early 2000 and was soon hailed as a star that could give Mohanlal and Mammootty a run for their money at the Kerala box office.
Debuting as director with Lucifer, he strives hard to tick all the essential boxes needed for a commercial entertainer. Scripted by Murali Gopy. Mohanlal as Lucifer is a good watch, except for it’s exasperatingly long run time beefed up by stock slow motion frames of the leading protagonist. Just getting out of his jeep, striding across the screen with his acolytes, folding his black bordered starched white mundu; all mundane actions take their own sweet time coupled with a loud almost screeching BGM. Don’t go in on an empty stomach, you will only be disappointed by your own high expectations, so it is Prithviraj wearing the chef’s toque, well leave that aside and Lucifer may still fill your appetite.
With a good ensemble of actors, Prithviraj enthuses the viewers to invest in his story and builds it up quite well in the first half. The milieu is state politics – you can take a Keralan all over the globe, but you cannot take out the politics from him or her – can you?
The script provides a decent enough framework for Prithiviraj to tell his story – a family close knit to politics coming to terms with the demise of its head also the CM, of cut throat intra and inter-party politics, a TRP hungry media hand in glove with those providing them pecuniary benefits, a drug mafia trying to set up shop in god’s own country. The potent ingredients are all there, but the essential tempering needed is missing.There are competent performances from Saikumar, Indrajit (in a role that is sadly not well fleshed out), Kalabhavan Shajon, Baiju (gets all the one liners) and wait. Vivek Oberoi as Priya’s second husband, Balan Nair.
Vivek Oberoi plays it suave, debonair and vile, stylishly draped, procuring the weed for his step- daughter too, all in all a scummy and sleazy douchebag. To his credit Oberoi holds his own, but here I am salivating at the prospect of the homegrown Fahad Faasil essaying that role.
The promising build up digresses in the second half and the film meanders on yielding space for more hurrahs and hosannas for the eponymous lead. The second half feels stretched and at the point where Manju Warrier’s Priya makes a call to Stephen, you know where all this is leading to. Sadly, Manju’s character’s half-baked writing allows only for a perennially forlorn and disheveled look, and is mostly pushed asunder and confined as an observer to the political machinations gong on around her.
There is Tovino Thomas playing Jathin, her younger brother and the future scion to take on the mantle of their illustrious father. In all practicality it would have been politically prudent to have Priya take on the responsibility but hey no, it has to be a man. And this is where the screws begin to loosen and the narrative dips to play unabashedly to the male hormone-spewing gallery.
Mohanlal in a rather subdued but controlled performance delivers what is expected of him, but his character plays safe, his humane and kind ‘messiah to the deprived act’ of Nedumpally is eager to balance the dark, evil and violent Stephen.
There are innumerable references to god, devil, angels, inner demons and even the illuminati, but one cannot help think that all this is just to prop up the main protagonist as the one and only savior and a justification for more slow-motion close up frames revealing the testosterone oozing out his coarsened pores.
There is a smattering of lascivious policemen and misogynist politicians that populate the film mirroring some of the worrying realities around us. Cutting to the chase, Gopy and his team of writers were simply not pushed enough, somewhere through it all they got lazy and waited till the cows came home, which the Jersey’s never did. Or maybe Prithviraj was clear in his head that he did not want to bear the cross of creating layered characters or at least investing a bit more into Priya and Jathin to allow them to blossom, none of that, they all had to play second fiddle.
In the end, no there is no end in sight for eons, by the time Lucifer stakes his claim for god’s own country and exhorts everyone’s inner Lucifer, there is still no end. Prithviraj’s fetish for slow motion frames now transports and teeters into snow capped Russia with one Abra’m in an all black doing his thing once more. Ten thousand thundering typhoons, what in the lactiferous Luciferous is this? Blimey, is it a Version 2.0 in the pipeline? Go figure!
(The writer works as a social development consultant and loves to write on art, culture, and films and is based in Delhi.)