While the movie has already been declared a super hit and an umpteen number of reviews done about Mankatha, it’s a fact that the movie managed to emerge a winner ONLY because of Ajith and even the reviews that focused on his panache and élan, thrashed the sloppy screenplay. This article is about some suggestions that could have made Mankatha a near perfect heist-thriller. Since this article contains spoilers, I am using the character names, not the actor names to camouflage a little.
********* CONTAINS SPOILERS *********
Coming to the characterizations of the boys, there is no defined role for each of them, which makes one wonder why too many characters. When the director has made up his mind to get inspired from Hollywood, why should it be half-baked? Well, here we go with the modification. Vinayak, the Thala, is the master planner; Prem, the hacker, (not of the traffic signals) and Ganesh, the inspector, we will come to what their roles are later in the article. Suman knows, and so gives the whereabouts of the money and how Chettiyar plans to move the money. Mahat, the bar owner, funds the operation. A montage can be shown the team discussing and a dialogue can be added, “Okay boys, ellarkum avangavunga plan gnabagam irukkilla?”
Moving the Money
Chettiyar, being an experienced Don of Bombay, cannot be dumb to move the money in such a truck with least security. Since he is aware of the police raids, he plans to keep it simple and stupid. The truck of Sanjana Chit Funds has 2 crores of INR WITH PROPER PAPERS. So, during police check it would be let off easily when shown the proper records. But, it has a secret chamber (imagine an iron case of size the length and breadth of the truck, just like a drawer in a table) that has a security system with password combination and can be opened only with Chettiyar’s fingerprints. There comes Prem to hack the password combination and Suman brings Chettiyar’s fingerprints. (Prem’s scene in the traffic control room can be deleted and a short flashback cut can be shown Chettiyar patting on Suman’s shoulder and he brings that shirt for the fingerprints)
Though the bike stunt drives the fans bonkers, again it’s because of Ajith. The role of Ganesh, the cop, comes here, he is the one who stops the truck and checks and helps to remove the secret chamber, not the whole container (Come on now, it cannot be done in a National Highway without anyone noticing) and transfers to another van, which is driven by Ganesh to dodge other police checks. Prem opens it later with his hacking skills.
The Double Cross
The chess board scene is really new to Tamil Cinema, but again, if you take Ajith out of the equation, the plan is a slam-dunk. Vinayak, being a dirty cop and master planner, should analyze all possibilities. Just as Vinayak plans to double cross others, he should also permute the possibility of Ganesh and Suman double-crossing him. We will come to Prem and Mahat later.
Here comes the best use of the chessboard, the place where the King should stand and the best possible angle to draw and aim the gun at others.
Plan A: He shoots them all, of course, shooting Ganesh first.
Plan B: Possibility of Ganesh shooting Vinayak and others.
Plan C: Possibility of Suman double-crossing.
Plan D: Possibility of both Ganesh and Suman double-crossing.
As he describes, Prem and Mahat are mokka pasanga, so him shooting them can be left as it is in the movie. Why so? Will be explained in the following paragraph.
The interval block, a small change there to keep the audience guessing for whom the money is stolen. After Vinayak says, “Appo meedhi panam?” and laughs, a shot showing clips of the characters (aka square blocks in Karka Karka song in VV and scene when Rajini calls all black-marketers in Sivaji). First square block shows Chettiyar (to create an impression that Vinayak steals the money for Chettiyar and Sanjana), second one Ganesh (cop plus cop), third Prem (his recent closeness with Vinayak in the bar scene) and Suman (since he has a family) and of course, Sona. And now the blocks break as glass with Strictly No Rules tag and the interval!
The Mokka Pasanga
Well, any well-thought plan should have a hiccup, even for a master planner. It shouldn’t be always a one-sided game, should it be? Prem and Mahat get away with money cheating everyone else. Their motives are not understood by Vinayak and he underestimates them. A dialogue can be added once they see the money gone, “Chinna pasanga nu thappa eda pottuten.”
Climax – The Kicker
Right from the beginning of the second half one keeps guessing who is going to get away with the money and thinks the chase is after the money in the first place. Well, it is not. In the last scene, it should be revealed that during the heist night, Prithvi goes to the warehouse where the money is stored, replaces 490 crores with fake notes. (Yep, did you really think that a wicked brain like Vinayak would be ready to share 100 crores with petty thieves and wait and sit on a heap of currency?) Why replace rather than just take the 490 crores? A safety measure. Even if someone manages to take all the money, it should be of no use to them, and by the time they realize, Vinayak would have fled already.
Why 490 crores? Because Vinayak plans show the police that only 10 crores was stolen (And that explains how Mahat and Prem managed to exchange the currency. Those are real notes)
So, why to chase the fake currency? No, the chase is not after the money, it’s after the lives of the conspirators. Vinayak and Prithvi plan to kill everyone involved in the heist so that no one comes after them. While Vaibav is well planned and executed during the interrogation and Ganesh is saved for the fake death scene, Prem and Mahat get away (Velila poi pottu kuduthruvanga). So the chase; and Sona is collateral damage and what is burnt in the final scene is fake notes. Prithvi and Vinayak get away with 490 crores. Game Over!