Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 film 'The Godfather'.
Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 film 'The Godfather'.

An offer you can’t refuse

With the iconic Francis Ford Coppola film, The Godfather (1972), turning 50, its remastered version is being released in limited theatres across the country. Here are filmmakers on the timeless work.

“Great men are not born great, they grow great.” This is one among many, many popular quotes from The Godfather. It’s a line that can be said about films too. The Godfather, directed by Francis Ford Coppola and based on Mario Puzo’s novel of the same name, was released on March 14, 1972, and now, 50 years later, it continues to grow great. Look at how this film continues to inspire generation after generation of filmmakers across the world, who have come up with different iterations of the original. If ever there was a film worthy of the ‘classic’ tag, this here is it. Here are contemporary filmmakers speaking on why this 50-year-old film endures and continues to fuel cinema across the world.

For Abhinav Sunder Nayak, the editor of films like Uriyadi and director of the upcoming film Mukundan Unni Associates, finally getting to watch The Godfather on the big screen will be the realisation of a childhood dream. “I first saw The Godfather in the early 2000s. My dad, a huge fan of the first two films, who had seen it at Kozhikode’s Crown Cinema upon its release, kept saying that these films should be experienced on the big screen.

When we bought a DVD player for the first time, this was among the first films we watched. And yet, I could see that the CRT monitor didn’t quite do justice. It even got me wondering what the big deal with this film was.” In fact, Abhinav went on to call the film ‘overrated’. “I watched it again after years, out of sheer curiosity, and this time, I was stunned. I found it to be an extraordinary piece of cinema. With maturity and more knowledge about filmmaking, my appreciation had grown. I later rewatched The Godfather on a Blu-ray of the remastered version. I have since seen this film at least 10 times by now. I am stoked about seeing the latest 4K Remastered version.”

Rocky director Arun Matheswaran wasn’t aware of the re-release when we reached out to him. “I am definitely going to catch it!” he began. “The Godfather is the bible for gangster cinema. It has inspired so many stories and films including my own film, Rocky. The introduction of Mani Maran (Bharathiraja) in my debut film is inspired by the first scene of The Godfather, where a grieving father pleads to avenge the wrong done to his daughter.” Arun says he learned the art of framing from this film. “Notice Kay Adams (Diane Keaton), Michael Corleone’s wife, in the last shot of the film. As Michale becomes the don and men kiss his hand, Kay is outside trying to take a peek into their world. She stays an outsider. The film also serves as a character study—be it Vito Corleone or the impulsive first son… It’s an extraordinary lesson.”

For Malayalam filmmaker and screenwriter Salil V, the re-release is a special occasion as this is the first time he will be seeing the film! “I have read the book, of course, but not seen the film despite having the DVD with me. The novel is fantastic and I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing this supposed marvel of filmmaking on a huge screen for the first time. I hope that the theatres bring out the sequels too soon.”

For Telugu filmmaker Sudhir Varma, the director of films like Ranarangam and Dohchay, even getting the chance to speak about The Godfather for its 50th anniversary is an honour. The Swamy Ra Ra director is vocal about how he gets inspired by classics: “There are numerous remakes and inspirations of The Godfather-like Nayakan and the Sarkar series. My own film, Ranarangam, is part of this list. The visuals of The Godfather engrossed me the first time. There isn’t a single frame that’s boring. It was a visual spectacle made in the 70s without modern tech, and I daresay, no film has or will match it ever. Also, while numerous films get adapted from books, they usually don’t live up to the original work. I have read the book, and I think the film has outdone the novel.”

Echoing Sudhir Varma, Anjum Rajabali, screenwriter of Raajneeti, The Legend of Bhagat Singh, Toofan, says, “There are few instances where the film is equal to, if not better, than the book, and that is the case with Coppola’s The Godfather. I’ve taught the film as a pristine example of adaptation and structuring. The book, a sprawling epic, establishes a lot about Vito Corleone’s childhood, his relationships, his psychology and all of that. Whereas in the film, his son Michael is the protagonist. And as Michael grows in power, parallelly his moral decline begins. His paranoia and isolation increase, breaching the family values his father held dear. This is captured beautifully in the holy-profane juxtaposition in the baptism sequence. Michael is a classic archetype that goes back to Arjun in the Mahabharata. Structurally, too, the film is masterful. All these factors make the movie such a fine cinematic as well as a literary achievement.”

The Godfather can be caught in limited PVR theatres this weekend.

(With inputs from Sajin Shrijith and Shilajit Mitra)

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