Mankatha is all the one would expect it to be: A complete masala entertainer with parts of slickness, comedy and riveting dishoom-dishoom.
...except one unique element. The unabashed portrayal of negative shades of characters and lack of forced moral correctness Yes. In this movie, it's not always that the good guys defeating the bad guys; it’s just as the bad guys are fun enough that you'd want them to win.
The entertainment in the movie is not so much the storyline itself – which is a dirty-cops-and-heist-gone-wrong thriller – but the zippy screenplay, big doses of humour and Ajith's brilliance.
The latest white-collar crime with blue-collar shades? Illegal betting on cricket matches by Indian and international communities like on the IPL matches. Who are the main characters?
Jayaprakash is the unscrupulous Chettiar who owns Golden Theatres in Mumbai, which forms the front for all his illegal businesses like money laundering, gambling, etc. Also the father of Sanjana (Trisha). Then there's suspended cop Vinayak Mahadevan (Ajith), corrupted S.I. Ganesh (Ashwin), Chettiar's close friend Faizal (Arvind Akash) and Sumanth (Vaibhav), their friend Mahat (Mahat Raghavendra), his geeky friend Prem (Premgi Amaren), super cop Asst. Commissioner Prithviraj (Arjun) and his loyal aide Kamal Ekambaram (Subbu). The ladies in the movie are Sanjana (Trisha), Sona (Lakshmi Rai) and Suchitra (Anjali). Andreah plays a small role as Prithviraj's wife.
Long story short:
Chettiar convinces Mumbai's dons to use Golden Theatres to collect and divide the vast betting monies of IPL's final matches. Ganesh, Sumanth, Mahat and Prem want some of this moolah. Vinayak enters the scene with his cool scheme to take ALL of it away. Meanwhile, there's a special undercover police task force set up to close the net on these illegal betting activities. The money disappears. Chaos and mistrust happens. Mutiny in the ranks. Vinayak strives to be one step ahead of Chettiar, the cops and his own cronies. Big chunks of music, comedy and fight scenes. The plot thickens, the end happens in the series of twists and turns – and it's interesting to watch the whodunit happen and who's REALLY who in the story.
First:The fact that Venkat Prabhu chose to thumb his nose at all the oft-seen fake morals-upholding business in Tamil films. So what if the bad guys are good to look at or fun enough that we as the audience would cheer for them? So what if the supposed "hero" is a cad? So what if every character has big swathes of grey in it? It's an entertainer, not a lecture on morality; our job is to sit back, relax and enjoy the hours of entertainment.
Then: This is an out-and-out Ajith film. He's greying around the temples, sports a scruffy stubble, doesn't have a hero's lightning-fast reflexes anymore and isn't skinny or rippling with muscle. But boy, he's got charisma and style. Pizzazz and panache. Looks and personality. Cool lines peppered with bleeped-out cuss words. The look, the role, the character and the mood suits him perfectly.
Next: Just because it's an Ajith film doesn't mean everyone else in the movie is simply chopped liver. Every single other character has weight and strength. The boys (Premgi, Vaibhav, Arvind Akash, Ashwin and Mahat) have done a superb job. Ashwin is especially impressive – tall, good-looking and a promising actor. Vaibhav is superb. Premgi is adorable. Mahat is one of those cute guys with a mean streak – perfect. Arvind is the perfect loyal goonda for the baddie. Arjun is on par with Ajith in heroism, the yin to Ajith's yang. Subbu is impressive as the upright police officer.
More: Nice twists and turns and fight scenes. It's good to see Ajith getting beaten up a little here and there too – it's more realistic, Hollywood-ian and one savours Ajith's fiery return barrage even more! Of course, comedy is a definite must in a Venkat Prabhu movie and everyone contributes to the haha-factor.
Tedious in places. The movie runs for 2 hours 35 minutes, but feels like it's 3 hours long. A couple of songs are superb, but others slip under good. In fact, there's one song with some bewildering background CG and picturisation that can be removed altogether. Some small but glaring loopholes here and there (lack of attention to detail has long been a Tamil movie failing), hard fights that could have been tightened around the belt and so on. Perhaps the biggest letdown was that the heroines were close to being completely wasted. No – they were not completely redundant; but they were not utilized to their maximum capacity either. Trisha is very pretty and has a unique fashion sense and she's done the best she can within her character's framework, but Lakshmi Rai perhaps has the most colourful role.
Still, all in all, an entertaining end to an entertaining movie. The end credits are un-missable, so don't get up and walk away thinking the movie's over.