Naanayam (debatable), Kandhasaamy (perhaps). And now,
we have Mankatha. Too early to be sure of whether
the film fits into this category. But, from what we
have heard and understood from the trailers and other
sources, it is all about 5 men fishing in murky waters
to pull off a mega-heist worth Rs. 500 crores.
So, what is it that makes a good heist movie? Well,
if we look into the brief collection of such movies
that we have, there seem to be four factors that go
towards making of one.
1. Motive: Why does the protagonist
want the money for? If it is a Shankar movie, it is
always for the cause of building a better society
like in Gentleman or Sivaji, which automatically puts
the protagonist in the good books of the audiences.
So what if he is on the wrong side of the law, he
just wants to help the people? The moral side of things
is thus taken care of. A very good motive to go with.
But, what if the director wants to get a bit more
realistic. The world has got more narcissists than
Robin Hoods. Yes, keep the motto simple. The protagonist
does not want to develop the society or help the needy;
he just wants the most flashy cars, big houses, girls
and expensive lifestyle and other whatnots; most importantly,
the thrill of the quest. Something like the Ocean’s
franchise. Not too good a motive to start off with
because the audience wouldn’t readily sympathize
with such a protagonist who will then have to rely
on other factors to win them over.
2. Modus Operandi: How does he pull
it off? Perhaps the most important factor of any heist
movie. You can have as strong a motive as you like,
but if the modus fails to interest audience, the entire
movie collapses like a pack of cards. This was something
Kandhasaamy taught us. The motive was top class; bring
out all the black money, give it back to the poor.
But, the modus went haywire, got too ‘cocky’
and fell flat on its face. Result - a movie that could
not sustain interest. It is almost solely on the basis
of the modus that the Ocean’s franchise saw
success; moves that were clinically designed to counter
every aspect of the system that they were up against.
While a movie like Gentleman did not get too much
into the modus, just relying on action rather than
tact, Sivaji went one better, using tact and action
in tandem. Naanayam was almost Hollywood like in its
modus. But, if you really want to see the strength
that a good modus operandi can lend to a movie, then
you must have watched the Hindi movie Johnny Gaddar.
3. Conflict: Is he running away with
the money or is he being given a run for his money?
This is one aspect that can make or break a movie.
Yes, cinema’s rule book states that the protagonist
must eventually win the battle, but there must be
a battle to win. There have been films that have made
the mistake of making it all too easy for the protagonist.
There was a point in Sivaji where it looked as if
the protagonist was going to have it all his way until
Shankar decided to bring in a twist which ultimately
led to the appearance of Mottai Boss, which all agree
is the highest point of the movie.
There are some movies which have survived solely on
the basis of the conflict, like Thiruda Thiruda. Here,
the protagonists knew little or nothing about the
modus hatched by the antagonists, neither did they
have a motive or plan, but were still unwittingly
drawn into the conflict.
4. Outcome: In films where the motive
is clearly spelt out, the outcome is hardly a factor,
it will be predictable. There was no trouble in guessing
what would be the outcome of a Gentleman or a Sivaji.
The outcome becomes significant when the motive remains
hidden for a good part of the movie, like in Naanayam.
There, the outcome as well as the motive comes as
a surprise. But, this kind of approach seldom makes
up for flaws that may have surfaced in the modus operandi
and conflict portions.
Objectively speaking, movies need to tick at least
two of the four factors to produce entertaining stuff
and it is the modus and conflict factors that carry
the highest weightage. Looking at the trailers and
snippets of Mankatha, it seems like a film that relies
on these two more than anything else. So, how many
boxes will Mankatha tick? Lets wait and watch.