Marthandan's directorial debut 'Deivathinte Swantham Cleetus' is a superhero film masquerading under the guise of a metaphoric experiment in mythology. That it could have been a very special film is indeed true and that it becomes nothing of the sort is even truer.
A light and sound show based on the life of Jesus Christ is being planned in a tiny village somewhere in Kerala, and the organizers are on the lookout for an actor who could play Christ. They run into Cleetus (Mammootty), a serene looking man with the eyes of a lamb, who after some persuasion agrees to play the role. On the rehearsal camp, however, trouble brews, when they realize that Cleetus is a cutthroat criminal from Cherayi.
It doesn't take much of a thinking to realize that Cleetus is a glorified version of the many superhero roles that Mammootty had done in the yesteryears. The only major difference is that this time around, Cleetus looks like Jesus - perhaps a bit heftier than the savior whom we have known all along.
Come to think of it, the arrival of the superhero in a village, and the ways in which he wins over the hearts of the villagers is a theme that we aren't unfamiliar with. There is a crucial event that draws the villagers on to the protagonist's side in films as these, and in 'Deivathinte Swantham Cleetus', a girl almost drowns in the river, before Cleetus rushes in to save her!
The comedy that is customary in most scripts of Benny P Nayarambalam is sadly missing here, and there are very few instances in the film that are absolutely hilarious. The attempts to generate humor are definitely there, but almost all of them miss the mark.
Perhaps its coincidental that several characters and instances remind you of similar ones that you have watched on screen not long back. The single mother Lekshmi (Honey Rose), the aging dramatist aching to play the lead role (P Balachandran), the done to death love tale, the pompous actress (Thesni Khan), are all people and situations that we have seen zillion times before.
I do agree that the premise held tremendous promise with a Biblical story as the backdrop and with a hardcore criminal emerging from the shadows to play none other than Jesus on the stage. It's totally disappointing then, that none of these potentials are productively explored in the film, thereby rendering it a usual melodrama with none of those spectacles that could have turned it impressive.
There aren't any real villains in the film, when you take a closer look at it. Perhaps no evil forces can flout their might against Cleetus, and the police officer who decides to arrest him makes a hasty retreat, with his forces being beaten black and blue by Cleetus. Harikrishnan (Kailash), mananges to get a bit closer and even makes a jab at his chest, but Cleetus is not one to be defeated.
This is however yet another solid performance from Mammootty this year, though Cleetus requires nothing earth shattering from the actor in him. Its more about looks, and Mammootty brings in a tremendous amount of peace and tranquility into his eyes, effortlessly transforming it into menace, inspiring dread.
Marthandan does make a tremendous effort to make his film engage both the heart and the mind. It's tragic that despite all his genuine efforts, it makes a connection with neither.