DIRECTED BY VENKAT PRABHU
STARRING: AJITH KUMAR, ARJUN, VAIBHAV, MAHAT RAGHAVENDRA, ASHWIN KAKUMANU, PREMJI AMARAN, TRISHA KRISHNAN, ANJALI, ARAVIND AKASH, JAYAPRAKASH with LAKSHMI RAI and ANDREA JEREMIAH
Can anyone take Venkat Prabhu seriously? Why does he even try? If being completely unoriginal and mundane is considered an achievement, then Cloud Nine movies’ ‘Mankatha’ is top of the game. I thought he hit rock-bottom in misdirection with ‘Saroja’ – ‘Goa’ was a sort of delightful reinvention in the sense that it was so nonsensical that it was actually fun. With ‘Mankatha’, Prabhu defies everything that’s good about him and he does it presentably well. The heist sequence in ‘Goa’ raised eyebrows up until they had cheek enough to turn it to a farce. ‘Mankatha’ isn’t. Saying it with a straight face doesn’t make it serious; neither does it help raise laughs. We find bad screenwriting on top of juvenile conception in a hilarious outfit that doesn’t even have the basic inventiveness to laugh at itself. Sad to say, ‘Mankatha’ is Venkat Prabhu out of form on a hunt for money.
How much can a film play against its own strengths? ‘Mankatha’ fails miserably as an ensemble film that doesn’t even try to justify its casting choices. Anjali as Suchitra Sumanth and Aravind Akash as Faizal come on extremes of an acting spectrum ranging from ‘unnecessary’ to ‘plain stupid’. Premji Amaran is as close in erroneousness with neither the comic timing nor the tongue-in-cheek humour that empowered his Saamikannu in ‘Goa’. We start to think that his importance is more because he’s the director’s brother than the fact that he’s the last person in the world for any role that demands the slightest of sensibility. He’s like a square peg in an octagonal hole where fits but miserably. Trisha Krishnan gets the wrong song sequence, her presence unjustified, while Andrea Jeremiah is like a stage-hand who gets a chance because they’re an actor short. The rest are tolerable, though Vaibhav gives the impression of being overused and repetitively so. Vijay Vasanth and Ajay Kumar make inconsequential cameos and we miss Jai among the lot – it would have been interesting to see where he fits. Probably a Hindi-speaking Police-Officer sidekick?
How the traitors get hold of the cash is not explained – a clear sign that this film is not to be rationalized. With a whole load of shenanigans and sleaze as an excuse for style, we have everything that can possibly bring a film down on levels of intelligence. But we’re not overdosed, we’re left conscious to see its flaws. The film is more of a hole than a roof where it’s absurd to want it to hold water. It’s a lost case that tries to not be so, and in that it fails. Its twists are guessable on a second-by-second basis, the action sequences are so overwrought you’d think it was better to watch machines collide in ‘Transformers: the Dark of the Moon’, and even the music score doesn’t help. Yuvan Shankar Raja ought to know that his main theme isn’t multi-purpose, it doesn’t make sense to use it everywhere. There are times when it clicks, helping with heroism, but on others it’s excessive. It’s disappointing to see a game-changing musician like Yuvan sticking to the rules of this one for a lacklustre score that’s all over the place. So much for musical direction! The chase sequences employ some hectic African beats in the style of a Paul Greengrass film (like ‘the Bourne Ultimatum’ or ‘Green Zone’) but have neither the camerawork nor the editing finesse to pull the effect off. Be it the green-coloured blood spurts or the close-range monologues, ‘Mankatha’ fails dismally at every effort where it tries to live up to a Hollywood counterpart. It’s tiresome with its relentlessness to be unoriginal that I wished it would just stop trying so hard to be. Really.
Ajith Kumar (in his 50th Film) is overexposed but manages fine. The character does not promise what the actor can’t provide, so we find sufficiency. It would have been better to add a little more dimension and screen-presence to the other stalwart in Arjun, making their face-off more excitable perhaps. But still, they’re only what they are: good patches on a bad film. Blots, nevertheless.