Mankatha (2011) - Movie Description - Yuvan Shankar Raja


Following the release of his film Aasal in February 2010, Ajith Kumar was signed by Dhayanidhi Alagiri's Cloud Nine Movies for a project touted to be directed by Gautham Menon. However, as Ajith Kumar participated in the 2010 season of the FIA Formula Two Championship, Gautham Menon, unwilling to wait, decided to shelve the film and opted to focus on another project, which prompted Venkat Prabhu, who was keen on making a multi-starrer film featuring top stars, to sign the actor in his next film, after the director saw moderate success with his previous film, Goa. Prabhu had written three scripts, out of which the actor chose Mankatha, in which he would portray a character "with grey shades". Venkat Prabhu later disclosed that Ajith Kumar was never considered for the role when he wrote the first draft of the script but that he kept his "usual gang of boys in mind" while creating the characters. Vaibhav Reddy suggested that a "big hero" should play the protagonist, with Bollywood actor Vivek Oberoi and Sathyaraj being considered first for the role. Ajith Kumar had called Prabhu at that time and expressed interest in performing a role similar to The Joker character played by Heath Ledger in the 2008 English film The Dark Knight. With the protagonist role in Mankatha incidentally being such a character, Ajith immediately accepted the role, turning the film into a high-profile production. Prabhu further emphasized that the script had been altered due to Ajith's entry and he had incorporated "certain elements" that Ajith's fans would expect in a film.

The film officially commenced on 2 August 2010 with the formal launch and a simple pooja held at the AVM Studios, Chennai, coinciding with Ajith Kumar's 18th anniversary of his entry into the film industry. The film's title, initially being Mangaatha, derived from a popular Indian traditional card game, underwent a minor change in its spelling, due to numerological reasons. During the pre-production stage, while Prabhu was still working on the scriptment, sources claimed the film to be on the lines of Steven Soderbergh's crime thriller Ocean Eleven (2001). The story was later reported to revolve around a Mafia gang gambling during the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket season. In June 2011, reports emerged that the film was a remake of the 2008 Hindi film Jannat that was based on match fixing. However, Dhayanidhi and Venkat Prabhu quickly denied the news and assured that Mankatha was original. Upon completion of filming, Prabhu named it "his favourite film so far" and "close to my heart".


The film was supposed to be a "multi-starrer", with several leading South Indian actors expected to appear in it, which is a rare occurrence and would be the first of its kind in the Tamil film industry. Telugu actor Nagarjuna was first approached to essay a powerful character as a CBI officer, being initially confirmed by the director during the launch of the film. He had also conveyed interest in remaking the film into Telugu and playing Ajith Kumar's role in return, but since he could not adjust his call sheet, he was forced to pull out, with Arjun replacing him in November 2010. In an interview from August 2010, Venkat Prabhu had affirmed that Mohan Babu's son, Manoj Manchu, Ganesh Venkatraman, Venkat Prabhu's younger brother, Premji Amaren, who had been part of all his brothers' films, and a newcomer Mahat Raghavendra, a childhood friend of producer Dhayanidhi Alagiri, were signed to portray Ajith Kumar's sidekicks in the film. However, Manoj Manchu couldn't accept the offer due to a shoulder injury and was eventually replaced by Vaibhav Reddy, appearing in the third consecutive Venkat Prabhu film, while in December 2010, sources revealed that another newcomer Ashwin Kakumanu, who previously was seen in Nadunisi Naaygal, was roped in for the fourth role, replacing Ganesh Venkatraman. Nandha later stated that he was offered the role as well, but had to reject it since he was busy shooting for Vellore Maavattam.

Prabhu termed the film as "male-oriented", attaching less importance and significance to the female characters in the film. Early reports suggested that Samantha Ruth Prabhu, and Anushka Shetty were initially approached for the lead female roles, while in July 2010, reports surfaced that Neetu Chandra, and Lakshmi Rai were supposedly signed for the roles. However, the following month Neetu Chandra opted out of the film, refusing the project due to unavailability of dates. Subsequently Trisha Krishnan was signed to portray Sanjana, Ajith Kumar's love interest, pairing with him for the third time, with Lakshmi Rai being confirmed later, who was signed on to play an important and "lengthy role". Venkat Prabhu revealed that changes in the script resulted in changes of the female characters' personalities, clarifiying that Trisha was not the replacement for Neetu Chandra and that the characters offered to both were different, while adding that Trisha's role was specifically written for her. Prabhu further stated that Lakshmi Rai was first chosen to play Ashwin's pair, which was dropped when the screenplay was altered, and that she was eventually offered the role of Sona, resolving that Rai was not given a choice to select between the roles of Sanjana and Sona, as the actress had claimed post the film's release. Earlier, reports had claimed that Sri Lankan model and actress Jacqueline Fernandez was also roped in for a guest role. In November 2010, Sneha was reported to be added to the cast to be paired opposite Arjun, however the role was later finalized with Andrea Jeremiah portraying that character, who had declined the role first, but accepted later after being paid  20 lakhs as remuneration for shooting six days. She was also expected to perform a song for the soundtrack album.

Other additions to the cast in the following months included Subbu Panchu, who rose to fame with his appearance in Boss Engira Bhaskaran and would essay a police officer character, Jayaprakash, enacting also a character with negative shades as the father of Trisha's character, and Anjali, playing Vaibhav's pair. Sources claimed that Venkat Prabhu himself would also enact a pivotal role in the film, while reports suggesting that Vijay would appear in a cameo role were dismissed by the producer, who clarified that Vijay Vasanth would appear in a pivotal role. Concerning the film crew, Venkat Prabhu renewed his previous associations with his cousin Yuvan Shankar Raja, for the background score and soundtrack of Mankatha, Sakthi Saravanan, who would handle the cinematography, and Praveen K. L., who along with N. B. Srikanth, would take care of the editing. Vasuki Bhaskar and Kalyan remained the costume designer and the main choreographer, respectively, with Shoby joining the latter for a couple of songs, while Selva was assigned as the stunt coordinator.


The film was launched on 2 August 2010 at AVM Studios in Vadapalani, Chennai in a simple manner, following which the film's shooting commenced with the principal photography. The first schedule of filming was supposed to begin by early September, but due to pre-production works and since the principal cast was not decided yet, the shooting got delayed further, finally commencing on 25 October in Chennai. Several days earlier, a test shoot was conducted with Premji Amaren, Mahat Raghavendra and Vaibhav Reddy taking part in it. Following shoots, involving Ajith Kumar, Trisha and Premji, along the Rajiv Gandhi Salai (OMR), and at Ajith's home, a duet song, picturized on Ajith Kumar and Trisha, featuring CGI special effects, was filmed in early November, in a Chennai studio nearby the East Coast Road. From 10 November onwards, the "introduction" song was shot for five days in Bangkok, Thailand, with Ajith Kumar, Lakshmi Rai and some foreigners participating.

The film's second schedule was planned to begin on 6 December 2010 in a studio in Chennai, which was slightly delayed due to heavy rain, and started couple of days later. This led to speculation that the film had been shelved due to financial constraints, which was quickly denied by Venkat Prabhu. During the schedule, all important stunt sequences were canned at Binny Mills in Perambur, while simultaneously a grand set, resembling the Dharavi slum in Mumbai was errected in a Chennai studio. Ajith Kumar also performed one of the action choreographies with the use of a body mounted camera, weighing around 30 kgs. In late December, the third song, a "high-spirited peppy number", was shot for five days, with Shobi choreographing the steps. An item number, titled "Machi, Open The Bottle", it featured actresses Debi Dutta and Kainaat Arora dancing to the song along with Ajith Kumar and the rest of the gang. The schedule was wrapped up by early February, with which approximately fifty per cent of the film was reportedly completed.

The remaining part of the film was supposedly to be shot during the third and last schedule to be held in Mumbai, which was to start in late February. However, sourced clarified that the subsequent schedule, too, would be held in Chennai only, with filming being carried on at the Padmanabha Theatre in North Chennai. In late March, the crew eventually moved to Mumbai, where the filming was held for nearly two weeks, mostly at the Dharavi slum. The climax portion was planned to be filmed at Madurai, which was considered as "apt" for the "action-oriented" sequence, but was eventually filmed in Chennai as well, while the remaining scenes were to be canned in Hyderabad. During the first week of June, Ajith had reportedly completed his portion, with his last day shoot being held in Hyderabad, while sources confirmed that filming was still being carried on later that month in Hyderabad. Shooting was further extended, with the crew leaving for Bangkok again in late June for a ten-day schedule to shoot the pending scenes, including a lengthy fight sequence and a song, involving Premji and Lakshmi Rai. Despite earlier announcement that Ajith had finished his portions, a "special scene" featuring Ajith in a different look was filmed on one day during the first week of July. By June 10, 2011, the crew returned to Chennai and announced the completion of the entire filming.

Mankatha's post-production works commenced by mid-June 2011, and were carried on for over one month. Earlier, an animation sequence lasting about 4 minutes was being created by specialized technicians, while CGI special effects were included in a song and action scenes, which was cited as the reason for the delay. By early August, all actors but Ajith Kumar had finished dubbing for their characters, including Trisha who on Venkat Prabhu insistence spoke dubbing for herself in the film, which became only the third film to feature her original voice. Rekhs, who had previously subtitled films including Enthiran and Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa, subtitled Mankatha during the first week of August, while Yuvan Shankar Raja worked on the re-recording, being assisted by Premji.


Even before beginning the principal photography, a short teaser trailer was shot on the day of the launch itself, since it coincided with Aadi Perukku and was considered an auspicious day. The teaser was screened during the intermission of Naan Mahaan Alla, another Cloud Nine Movies distribution that released on 20 August 2010. During Diwali 2010, the first official posters of Mankatha were published in newspapers. A teaser featuring the song "Vilaiyaadu Mankatha" was released on Ajith Kumar's birthday, on May 1, 2011 on YouTube, after plans of releasing the film or the soundtrack on that day had failed. As the teaser garnered high response, the song was released as a single track on 20 May 2011, creating positive media response.


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