It is so sad and infuriating to see an actress of Nayanthara’s caliber—‘Lady Superstar’ no less— playing such a dumb woman in Godfather. Nayanthara is cast as Sathyapriya, the daughter and successor of the deceased Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, whose husband Satya Dev (seriously!) is involved in international drug trafficking. At home, he intermittently tries to make heavy sexual advances towards his sister-in-law, Nayanthara’s sister, who doesn’t bother to tell her sister what Satya Dev is up to. If your brother-in-law is a potential CM, you had better keep your mouth shut.
Although two of the leading characters in Godfather, now streaming on Netflix , are named after truth, there is a ferocious fund of falsifications in this mess of a movie, mined by mayhem and governed by an anarchy that seeps right into the core of the plot. Not that anyone seems to have any idea what lies at the core of this bottomless pit of trashy nothingness.
There is a lot of obstreperousness carpeting the chaos. Director Mohan Raja has returned to Telugu cinema after twenty years. I wish we could call this a grand homecoming. The sheer vacuousness of the proceedings sets your teeth on edge. How could an actor of Chiranjeevi’s stature allow himself to be hoodwinked into this self congratulatory melodrama about an outsider making a resolute claim to the prime ministerial throne? Brahma is the good bad boy as compared with the other politicians who are bad badboys.
Chiranjeevi is characterized as some kind of a maverick. He doesn’t speak much. He glowers greatly, showering contempt on the corrupt. Clearly his actions are meant to speak louder than his words. But a large part of Chiranjeevi’s Brahma’s actions are so devoid of straightforward logic, you wonder what the writer-director Mohan Raja was thinking while writing the role. Perhaps, a mix of Mahatma Gandhi and Manmohan Singh?
It is pretty much spelt out in the silly, scattered script that adopting underhand methods in politics is okay ,no matter which side you are on. So a woman claiming to have been raped by Brahma is set up as decoy. No DNA tests, no probe: Brahma is sent to prison where his uniform announces he is prisoner number 786.
The holy number is the pre-interval plot-revelation about Chiranjeevi’s true identity. This is where Salman Khan is introduced. He plays Masoom Bhai and calls Chiranjeevi’s Brahma from Dubai.
“Bhai, anything I can do?” Salman drawls exactly the way he must have while offering his services to Chiranjeevi for this film.
Brahma tells Masoom Bhai to await further orders. The cue for director Mohan Raja to tease out some more screenplay from a frozen gelatinous plot.
In the initial footage of the second-half, Salman studio-rides a fancy mobike, studio-bombs a truck carrying illicit money. The entire action sequence reeks of phoney, juvenile special effects of the kind employed in Ekta Kapoor’s serials. The dance where Chiranjeevi and Salman move to the grove is so limp, it feels like two superstars being bamboozled into shaking a leg at a wedding.
How could two superstars of this stature be brought together for something so bereft of cinematic value? Godfather feels like a reluctant remake of the Malayalam film Lucifer where Mohanlal and Prithviraj Sukumaran played Chiranjeevi and Salman’s parts with a lot more agility and joy.
Nothing in Godfather works, least of all the language. While the principle characters speak in Telugu, all the hoodlums and gangsters , including Salman, speak in Hindi. The politicians are all eminently corruptible. I only wish the film had shown more honesty in its presentation than the characters.
Subhash K Jha is a Patna-based film critic who has been writing about Bollywood for long enough to know the industry inside out. He tweets at @SubhashK_Jha.
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