Being Ajith’s 50th movie Mankatha has been in the news right from the day it was announced. For one, Venkat Prabhu had come into the picture after Gautham Menon moved out of the venture. Venkat Prabhu had built up a reputation for making films with an ensemble star cast with people he knew well & humor in his films was always a strong point. What made the project even more interesting was that it was being produced by Dayanidhi Alagiri’s Cloud Nine Movies. Later the focus was on the star cast of the film and then Nagarjuna dropped out, to be replaced by Arjun. Unfortunately just around the time when the film was ready for release, the change in power in Tamil Nadu just added to the confusion. With the AIADMK coming back to power the going became a bit difficult for Cloud Nine to release the film on their own. After a lot of drama finally the festival release happened with Cloud Nine tying up with Sun Pictures.
The Sun Pictures-Cloud Nine combine realized the importance of releasing the film on August 31st as it would give them a long initial weekend thanks to Eid & Ganesh Chaturthi. Coming finally to the film itself I must say at the very outset that I was not extremely confident of how the film would turn out. After all the last couple of films of Ajith ( Aegan & Aasal ) had turned out to be duds after promising much and also that Venkat Prabhu had not made a movie with any big star before this. So I went in with very minimal expectations, just to be safe. But what lay in store for me was a pleasant surprise indeed. Mankatha is a neo-noir Tamil film that proudly tells you that it wears its heart on its sleeve. Thala Ajith plays Vinayak a suspended Mumbai cop and he is as mean as one can get. Vinayak’s girlfriend Sanjana ( Trisha ) is the daughter of Arumuga Chettiyar ( Jayaprakash )who runs a rundown theatre that acts a front for his illegal betting and allied businesses.
Coming into the city is a huge sum of money to be used in the betting before the IPL finals which is to be safeguarded by Arumuga Chettiyar. Seeing this money as the gateway to his future is Sumanth (Vaibhav), a trusted henchman of Arumuga Chettiar. Sumanth has enlisted the support of his friend Mahath ( Mahath ), a bar owner and also in the group are Ganesh (Ashwin), a cop and Prem (Premji Amaran) an I.T expert. While Sumanth & Co are trying to work out a plan to steal the money how can Vinayak be far behind? The web of deceit and intrigue only intensifies with the presence of the Special Task Force headed by ACP Prithviraj (Arjun) who are out to take on the betting syndicate and clean the slate completely.
What ensues hereon is a heady cocktail of guns, action, some cool dialogues and of course songs in between. As both writer and director I must say that Venkat Prabhu has certainly tried to maintain a balance between his usual style of filmmaking and that of keeping in mind the presence of a big star like Ajith. While the humor level is slightly subdued when compared to that of Venkat Prabhu’s previous films there are certainly a lot of tongue in cheek dialogues over here especially by Ajith. The 1st half of the film more or less just helps in building up the tempo and setting the base for a more arresting 2nd half.
As is seen in most big star films, the ladies here have nothing much to do over here as well. Trisha shares a few romantic moments with Ajith and features in a couple of songs and that’s just about it. Lakshmi Rai plays the sexy vamp reasonably well but could have done with some more screen time. Andrea as Arjun’s wife and Anjali as Vaibhav’s wife literally have nothing to contribute especially Andrea. Action King Arjun enters the film with a bang in the 1st half but then more or less is non-existent before the culmination certainly brings in some justice to his presence in the film. The youngsters Vaibhav, Arvind Akash, Premji Amaran, Ashwin and Mahath are all decent while they rightfully step away when the focus is on Ajith for most part.
The film is technically a treat to watch as the visuals (camera by Sakthi Saravanan) and art work add depth to the proceedings. Yuvan Shankar Raja’s music is contemporary and while it may not be of the blockbuster kind, the songs still pass muster. Vilaiyaadu Mankatha (lyrics by Gangai Amaran, Sucharita, Yuvan Shankar Raja & sung by Sucharita, Yuvan, Premji Amaran, Ranjith & Anita) is the pick of the lot. The peppy ‘ Machi open the bottle’ ( lyrics by Vaali and sung by Mano, Premji Amaran, Tippu, Haricharan and Naveen ) works well too. Most of the other songs however are badly placed. Which brings us to the kingmaker as Ajith calls himself in the movie.
A film like Mankatha requires a star who can sink into the character of Vinayak and pull it off convincingly. It will not be wrong to say that Ajith has done more than enough justice to the character of Vinayak in the film. Ajith is the soul of Mankatha and now it’s tough to even imagine anybody else donning that character. For this credit also goes to Venkat Prabhu who has brought out the better side of Ajith in the film. That Ajith excels as a bad guy has been demonstrated even earlier in films like Vaali and Varalaru but here he plays Vinayak with a lot of casual elegance that adds the punch. Also it clearly is visible that he has had a blast while working in the film and the result is there for us all to see. For those who are complaining that the film isn’t all that original then it needs to be mentioned that Venkat Prabhu and his team show their inspirations clearly. But it’s also a fact that the film is original despite all the inspirations.
While the film had potential to end up a lot better (what if the 1st half had more meat and if the song placements were taken care of) it’s still heartening enough to say that Mankatha works as a festival release. After all there are strictly no rules in this game 🙂
P.S- pls do not miss the end credits of the film!!!