Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mankatha: Kollywood’s Usual Suspects

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Multi-starrer Tamil movies are a rarity. Even rarer are movies comprising ‘solo’ heroes pitted against each other. Combine this factor with the backdrop of IPL, the Mumbai mafia, glamour and action, and you have Mankatha (U/A), an entertainer that can be fairly approximated between Hollywood’s Usual Suspects and the director’s earlier venture, Saroja.

Vinayak Mahadev (Ajith, was the name intended to be an obeisance to the lord on the eve of Ganesh Chaturthi?) is a suspended police officer residing in Mumbai. He dates Sanjana (Trisha), the daughter of Arumugam Chettiar (Jayaprakash), a smuggler. Vinayak has secret flings with women, unknown to Sanjana, and makes no bones about having crossed 40 years of age. Chettiar makes arrangements to launder `500 crore into the nation, which a gang led by his henchman (Vaibhav), and including a police inspector (Ganesh Kakumanu) and an IIT graduate (Premji Amaren) plot to rob.

Meanwhile, an investigation team led by Prithviraj Kumar (Arjun Sarja) turns the heat on the mafia-bookie nexus. Following a hilarious turn of events, Vinayak bumps into the gang, rather innocently, and becomes one of them. A cat and mouse game follows, with the gang, Chettiar and the police as its players.

The occasional punch dialogues apart, the director must be congratulated for packaging a surprise quotient in Mankatha and not let it morph into a one-for-the-fans movie. The movie, which spans Mumbai’s underbelly of Dharavi and its glitzy nightclubs, rarely slackens in pace, save for a brief period after the interval. Arjun gets a refreshing role, more so after he was becoming an eyesore as hero of late. The heated exchange between Vinayak and Prithviraj, during which the former addresses the latter as ‘Action King’, lends drama to the proceedings. Lakshmi Rai flits through the movie in a role that is as skimpy as her costumes; even Trisha’s character is limited.

Yuvan Shankar Raja continues with his trend of adopting his father Ilayaraja’s hits for the music score; the song Open the bottle... resembles the hit number Saroja Saman Nikalo... in Chennai 600028.

Appeared in City Express, the daily supplement of the New Indian Express, on September 1, 2011