Director: Venkat Prabhu
Probably the biggest star to have a worst success ratio, Ajith has always been at the farther ends of the needle: success & failure. He could give the biggest hit of the year and the biggest flop of the year, (which he attributes to the intelligence of his fans to like only his good films) yet his star status always rests on the positive side of the needle.
The problem with any Ajith film is it needs to cater to a wider range of audience, regardless of its content, to become a hit. I could easily get away with saying that he didn’t select proper scripts but some of his films would eventually prove me wrong. Because, when he played to the ‘gallery’ with films like ‘Attagasam’ it wasn’t well received by his ‘style requisite’ fans & the ‘thinker’ fans; and when he came up with ‘Kreedom’ his ‘gallery’ & ‘style requisite’ fans let him down. Both were equally tolerable films but unfortunately his reach is too large to be constricted to a particular sect. As for as Billa is concerned: there are always exceptions to any theory. Yet, in a broader perspective, cinema & in particular commercial cinema in India can’t succeed by concentrating only on pleasing a particular audience while making a film. It goes without saying that even if you stay true to the concept you have in hand, you need to make it understandable for everyone out there. In short, there needs to be some compromise so that the disinterested audiences belonging to the other sect aren’t bored. We may call this as inclusive viewing – give some quota for every sect; & with the pleased audience, deliver what you wanted. Venkat Prabhu has taken this risky & yet safe route to make the 50th movie of Ajith: Mankatha.
What works best for Mankatha is that, it tries to bring out a reckless madman out of Ajith. Though it’s inspired by Heath Ledger’s take on the Joker (the bgm too – note the bgm that plays while Ajith interacts with Arjun on phone) it is refreshing to see Ajith let loose. As the central character, he carries us through the dullest moments of the film with his sheer presence & measured caricature. Yet, for someone who is attributed as the Kingmaker, Vinayak’s (Ajith) intelligence & smartness is questionable. Throughout the movie he seems to piggy ride on others, only by terrorizing them with his cunning looks & evil laugh. While this weakens the plot, the poorly executed & enormously stretched out action sequences takes a toll on the interest in the movie. Though these sequences have some dare-devilry, either from Ajith or Arjun, the songs & their poor placements are the culprits for people taking to smoking in the theatre I went. Warning: if you thought ‘tot-to toin’ in Asal to be the worst Ajith song ever to be pictured on him, you will be proved wrong. This clearly shows Venkat’s ineptness in dealing with situational songs & mass numbers – you don’t have to say everything you want to say- you know; like how you subtly touched on the meaning of the title. Having said that, there is a touch of class with the way he handles some of the sequences which otherwise are usually treated as mundane scenes. It is this classy act that rises above some gaping loopholes in the plot to paint poetry on screen – the chessboard scene is one such.
On the whole, Venkat Prabhu may not be creative enough to make a great con film, but he is talented enough to give an enjoyable Ajith film.
By the way, I was hoping Kamal Ekambaram (Subbu) will ask Ajith in the epilogue, “enada vilayadringa?” with Ajith replying “Mankatha da”, which would have been a bigger punch for the end. It’s Thala 50 outta 100.