Lucifer: Why Prithviraj Sukumaran's directorial, starring Mohanlal, is being touted as a potential summer blockbuster
Lucifer comes at a time when there are rumours regarding Mohanlal plunging into politics and contesting the Thiruvananthapuram parliament seat on a BJP ticket.
The big summer tentpole Malayalam release this year is Mohanlal’s Lucifer, the directorial debut of popular actor Prithviraj Sukumaran. The film is based on a story written by hard-hitting script writer Murali Gopy and is produced by leading producer Antony Perumbavoor. Lucifer was originally announced seven years ago as Mohanlal’s magnum opus by director Rajesh Pillai, who passed away in 2016. In 2017, Gopy revived the film, along with Prithviraj coming on board as director.
Lucifer is a multi-starrer with Mohanlal, Manju Warrier, Vivek Oberoi (as villain), Indrajith Sukumaran, Tovino Thomas, Sachin Khedekar, John Vijay, Kalabhavan Shajohn and 20 other artists. The actual shoot of the film was completed in eight months and is now all set for a worldwide release on 28 March. In fact, Mohanlal has just completed a series of 26 day–26 character posters, introducing the principal actors of the film through his social media handles. Mohanlal’s characterisation in the film has him play a family man with shades of grey.
The buzz is that Murali, who specialises in writing stories based on incidents from Kerala politics, has once again made a political thriller. The story is set against a central Travancore Christian political backdrop, with Mohanlal playing Stephen Nedumpally, a character said to be based on the life and times of a Machiavellian Kerala politician and a king maker.
The intense teaser of the film starts with darkness and the voice of a priest asking a man to say a confession if he does not plan to return to the church. Suddenly, the screen lights up with the back of Mohanlal walking out of a prison and saying, “Father, I can only confess to sins I have committed. How do I confess to sins I am yet to commit?” The tagline of Lucifer gives a hint of what awaits the audiences — “blood, brotherhood, betrayal.”
Mohanlal has always excelled whenever he has played characters with shades of grey. And if rumours are to be believed, there is a terrific twist at the end of the film. At the end of the shoot, Prithviraj had tweeted, “Today, Lalettan bids adieu to Lucifer and Stephen Nedumpally. It has been a journey like no other for me. When I took up the challenge of directing a huge film like Lucifer, most of my well wishers told me it wasn’t the wisest decision I’ve made and that as an actor, it’s a foolish investment of time. Directing Lalettan has been the absolute highlight of my career regardless of how many ever films I direct or even if I’ll never direct again.”
Lucifer comes at a time when there are rumours regarding Mohanlal plunging into politics and contesting the Thiruvananthapuram parliament seat on a Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) ticket. The speculation started when last September, Mohanlal met Prime Minister Narendra Modi to brief him about his NGO. It set rumours that Modi was actively wooing the star to contest from the star's home town Thiruvananthapuram against BJP’s bête-noire Congress MP Shashi Tharoor.
Mohanlal, like Tamil superstar Rajinikanth, has attracted the attention of the BJP-RSS cadre in Kerala as he has done many pro-Hindutva espousing characters in blockbusters like Narasimham, Ravana Prabhu and a few other films.
And the timing of the Padma Bhushan award conferred on him (he deserves it more than anybody else) by the central government just before the elections sets the tongues wagging. This created problems for the actor whose fan base is evenly spread across all religions in Kerala. Many posters and cartoons appeared lampooning the actor. It would have been suicidal for the actor to plunge into politics when he is still a superstar with the biggest opening in Kerala. Any association with a right-wing party would have jeopardised the star’s box office pull as his fans extend across ideologies and religions.
Mohanlal quickly distanced himself from any idea of joining politics and in an interview with Times of India, said, “Politics is not my cup of tea. I always want to remain an actor. I enjoy the freedom I have in this profession. In politics, a lot of people depend on you and it’s not easy. Also, it’s not a subject that I know a lot about and so I have no inclination whatsoever.”
The box office success of Lucifer will make Mohanlal more confident as his last release Odiyan took a fantastic opening but fell later as his fans did not like the film as a whole. Lucifer is expected to release in nearly 1000 to 1200 screens worldwide on 28 March, the beginning of the summer holiday season. The film will have dubbed versions in other South Indian languages releasing simultaneously along with the Malayalam version. The fan shows across Kerala are expected to start from 7 am. Producer Antony Perumbavoor is going all out to create a hype and hoopla around the film, with the trailer launch on 20 March.
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