Lucifer was destined and designed to be disruptive right from the day it was announced for reasons more than one. To put the origins of the title into context, everything about the film was biblical and on the opening day as well as the days leading upto it, the mass hysteria that it kicked up could be described aptly with no other word. A popular mainstream actor who in the past was the brunt of jokes for his views and opinions that were more or less alien to Malayalam Cinema was making his directorial debut with the biggest box office star in Kerala in a film penned by a script writer known for his ability to cook up complex tales and to irk, mock and insinuate too, backed by a producer whose name was eponymous with the star’s and the film was titled Lucifer. If this is not biblical in the tiny world of Malayalam Cinema, I do not know what is. Personally, as a fan who has been unapologetically yearning for the next big thing from Mohanlal on the lines of the alpha male trilogy of Devasuram, Aram Thamburan and Narasimham or something that matched up to the quintessential anti- hero that Aadu Thoma was, Lucifer was indeed a beam of hope and I shamelessly indulged the fan in me right up to the moment I entered the hall for the evening show on the first day of the release.
When the Malayali filmgoer sits down to watch Lucifer, Murali Gopy offers a blue pill and a red pill, not much different from the ones offered to Neo by Morpheus in The Matrix. You either watch the film as a starry eyed fanboy or you watch as an unbiased observer with feet firm on the ground, who is not oblivious to the political undertones of the narrative. When you are in for the movie on the day of it’s release and can’t hold your horses, there’s no prize for guessing what pill you’d choose. I obviously chose the blue pill intended for the unflinching fan but the effects did start to fade towards the end. That the film was about politics was evident from the day the first look was released which had Mohanlal donning the khadar ,which also hinted that Murali Gopy had the UDF in his crosshairs this time around. But of course the big news was Prithviraj’s debut as a director with none other than Mohanlal. Though he was tight lipped early on, in the weeks that led up to the release, he promised a treat for the fans. Mohanlal the way he wanted to see him on the screen as a fan was Lucifer, said Prithviraj the director. And he has done exactly that. Lucifer is nothing but a walk in the museum of all things that makes Mohanlal the box office powerhouse that he is. The actor towers over the rest of the impressive cast in the role tailor made for him by Murali Gopy and envisioned almost flawlessly by Prithviraj. The man is on fire here and it’s an understatement when I say that he defies age in the action sequences. That’s not to take anything away from actors ranging from Tovino to Indrajith to Shajon to Baiju to Manju to Vivek Oberoi who holds their own in the characters that fit them like a glove. Saikumar represents the UDF and Shivaji Guruvayoor is the personification of Murali Gopy’s favorite punching bag, the Left. Prithiviraj downplays his presence to that of a glorified stuntman in his own film, which is more or less an ode by the fanboy in him to the lead actor. Prithviraj impresses with his frames, scale and style, as a director though he did falter and fumble towards the end. The “item song” stood out like a sore thumb.
The storyline is borderline over the top conspiracy theory and in a state as politically literate like Kerala, it’s a hard sell if you ask me, which is where the lead actor’s stardom that knows no bounds helps the film’s cause. Mohanlal had his first tryst with the devil in the iconic Spadikam but it was the vernacular chekuthan who found his way into the narrative there. Prithviraj’s love for the occult is more than evident and even by his standards, for a film that seemed to deal with political climate in Kerala, the choice of the title sounded a bit outlandish. It didn’t fit for some reason at least to me and though it made sense once I watched the film in whole, I have to say it was the impossible merging of two different worlds that the director and the writer tried to pull off here. Cinema is after all fiction and fiction is ultimately suspension of disbelief. Murali Gopi is no Ranjith and neither is he Renji Paniker, which is to say rousing dialogues are not exactly his forte, which is why I am willing to forgive the terrible nod to Pulp Fiction. He is but indeed a master of plots and weaver of complex tales. Even in a film that was more or less apolitical like Ee Adutha Kaalathu he unwittingly made a choice that prompted the audience to speculate up on his political allegiances. Left Right Left which followed, only helped cement the suspicions about the political agenda of his films and writing. Kammara Sambavam, which came before Lucifer was again a testimony to the fact that he had no love lost for the political leadership in Kerala, especially the Left. Past behavior, they say, is the best indicator of future behavior and that could not be more truer here, with Lucifer. At a time when the State and the Country are engulfed in election frenzy, Murali Gopy trains his guns on the two major political factions who have taken turns, albeit democratically to rule Kerala for the past 70 years or so. To me at least, most ironic was the ending note where the writer almost sneers at the Malayali for having surrendered to the two political ideologies, the left and what used to be the right. Then the audience erupted into applause. And that’s where his propaganda succeeds if you ask me, though his alternative, is conspicuous by its absence in the narrative.