Godfather Movie Review: Engaging, even if inconsistent, battle of the dads
Not sure if it was intended, but God Father, you could argue, is namma version of Die Hard
As ancient scholar Chanakya once said, a line popularised by director Thiagaraja Kumararaja in Aaranya Kaandam, "Edhu thevayo, adhuve dharmam." This is the philosophy that drives the actions of characters in director Jegan Rajshekar's God Father, which, if it needs to be said, is unrelated to Francis Ford Coppola's franchise. However, it does have a remote connection to the 1991 Malayalam film of the same name, directed by Siddique and Lal. The latter plays dreaded gangster, MarudhuSINGAM, the antagonist in God Father, who bizarrely, narrates stories of a lion to those he is about to kill. With the predator in the fray, will the prey be far behind? Cinematographer-turned-actor Natty plays AdhiyaMAAN, who ends up in a situation where he has to save himself and his family from the clutches of Marudhu.
Cast: Natty, Lal, Ananya, Ashwanth
Director: Jegan Rajshekar
The why of this survival thriller answers questions about the use of such an iconic title. How far would fathers go to protect their sons? Throughout this film, we have two fathers, on opposing ends of the morality spectrum, making decisions for the goodwill of their progeny. The blatant power imbalance between the two fathers come to the forefront as the chase is shifted to Adhiyamaan's residential complex. Marudhusingam and his henchmen take over the apartment in search of Adhiyamaan's kid, Arjun, played by the precocious Ashwanth Ashok Kumar. From here on, God Father becomes an exciting and mostly engaging thriller. I'm not sure if it was intended, but God Father, you could argue, is namma version of Die Hard. Replace Nakatomi Plaza with this residential complex, Hans Gruber with Marudhusingam, and John McClane with a timid Adhiyamaan, we have God Father.
Full points to Jegan for not turning Adhiyamaan into a killing machine just because he is the 'hero'. The character is essentially a pacifist and is no match even to the weakest of henchmen in Marudhusingam's arsenal. The 'hero' here gets beaten, kicked, slapped, and even thrown around, but is resilient, and Natty sells this hopelessness pretty effectively. While Ananya does a good job of showcasing dread, it is young Ashwanth who steals the show. His performance in a pretty physical role establishes that Super Deluxe wasn't just a flash in the pan. Although Lal could sleepwalk through such a role, the one too many slow-motion shots spoil the fun. Another major deterrent in the filmmaking style is the edit pattern. The constant 'fade-to-black' is irritable, but even more so are the innumerable drone shots to establish every location jump.
God Father, essentially a chamber drama, comes into its own mainly when executing the Die Hard-esque thrills without the stunts. It is more about high-stakes survival than high-octane action blocks. Though the climbing-down-pipes and running-up-the-stairs get tedious at times, the intensity gets maintained, thanks to the taut central conceit. Also, the film acts as a commentary on the apartment culture that is portrayed to be thriving on isolation and alienation. Unlike other films that paint this culture as the root of all evil, the writing in God Father makes it just as one of many hurdles that come in the way of Adhiyamaan. Though he does have good friends as neighbours, wouldn't his life have been simpler had the others shown sympathy?
More than the decent performances, the well-conceptualised story, the novel setting of the film, what would truly determine the success of God Father, as filmmakers often say, is the audience's reception... to the ending. As his name crops up on the screen at the end of 111 minutes, Jegan makes us an offer, which in a weird way, follows the path taken by its more illustrious title-twin. One can either refuse or accept that offer of friendship. But then, there is the third option, which I found myself doing as the enterprising 'making videos' were shown as the credits rolled. I smiled in enjoyment at the confidence of the filmmaker.