: Sumanth (Vaibhav) plans to steal Rs 500 crore, collected by the betting mafia after the IPL finals, with friends -- software engineer Prem (Premji), bar owner Mahat (Mahat Raghavendra) and sub-inspector Ganesh (Ashwin Kakumanu). The money is being stored at a dilapidated theatre owned by Sumanth's boss, Arumuga Chettiar (Jayaprakash), and the four think they have a watertight plan in place. But as they set out to execute the heist, a fifth person -- inspector Vinayak Mahadevan (Ajith) -- suddenly appears and says he wants in. Left with no choice, the original four bend to his wishes and include him in the team. Once they steal the money, they have to contend with an angry mafia, a cop hotly on their heels, and deceit from within their own ranks.
It is such fun when our goody, goody heroes play baddies, the best examples being Rajinikanth in "Sivaji" and "Endhiran", Kamal Haasan in "Aalavandhaan" and Ajith himself in "Vaali". But when an actor defies norms and decides to do such a role in his 50th film, instead of playing it safe with a formulaic Kollywood offering, it deserves to be doubly welcomed.
In "Mankatha", Ajith plays a negative role, a corrupt inspector who is as bad as they come. He smokes and drinks, cheats on girlfriend Sanjana (Trisha), even though he keeps promising her that he has quit his bad habits, and sleeps with random women he picks up during his nights out. His only objective is to get rich quickly; for this he gets close to Sanjana and acts as if he loves her. Actually some 40 minutes into the movie, he says it all when, during a drinking session, he comes up with a pithy statement, "Naanum evalo naal than nallavana nadikkarathu" (How long do I continue to keep acting like a good man). It is obvious he had a lot of fun making the movie and it shows on the screen. He displays a superb talent for comedy, and his drinking session with Premji is a roar.
"Vilayada Mankatha" is topping the charts, but Yuvan Shankar Raja disappoints with the rest of the songs. Director Venkat Prabhu, who had a point to prove after the disastrous showing of "Goa", hits pay dirt once again with his neo noirish movie on cricket betting. A couple of scenes stand out for the outstanding writing, such as the one where a drunk Ajith plans his moves on a chessboard on how to lay his hands on Rs 500 crore, but the movie's running time of 2 hours and 40 minutes comes as a dampener. If the director had stuck with the noir genre and restrained himself from introducing unnecessary songs, the movie would have been a much better watch.
Ajith is the soul of the movie and the others have nothing much to do, with the exception of Arjun. He is aptly cast in the role of assistant commissioner of police Prithviraj and shares an easy camaraderie with Ajith. Another actor who stands out is Ashwin, who plays another corrupt cop Ganesh, and looks set for a promising innings.
This Venkat Prabhu game is a good watch, especially because of Ajith's baddie act.