The Heist Stuff :: The heist movies have always managed to keep us interested (the Bollywood ones not included), and among them, I would rate The Italian Job as the best, followed by many others, including Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve and Ocean’s Thirteen, along with Tower Heist and The Art of the Steal, even Fast Five turning into a Rio Heist making one believe that heist was a kind of new successful genre to explore. Even Bollywood had The Italian Job remade as Players, and it was only a matter of time until Malayalam movie industry also came up with a heist movie, and it comes from B. Unikrishnan with Mohanlal in the lead, and it was called Mr. Fraud – quite a negative name for a heist movie (may be it is named from the point of view of the victims). There will be the genuine question about why these heist films are so popular. I would say that people are having more tendency to take risks, and it is basic human nature to desire for something that someone else has, and it is the envy that takes over – at that moment combined by the risk plus desire/envy, the robbery becoming the wonderful art of steal and there begins the world of heist movies. These movies usually have many twists, innovations and the robber is usually portrayed as the good or better person.
What is it about? :: The centre of attraction is Bhaiji or Mr. Fraud (Mohanlal), the man with many names and many faces, none of them real or revealed. He is a man who commits heists against impossible odds with the help of his assistants Abbas (Vijay Babu) and Priya (Manjari Phadnis) as well as special electronic gadgets. After stealing from the dowry of a billionaire’s daughter, they are ready for one final mission to end all heists, and it includes stealing the treasure from the basement of one of the old palaces which is kept there due to a dispute between two parties and a petition to make them public. The two rivals, the two sons and their sons and daughters are waiting for an opportunity to pounce on the treasure and claim the whole of it as Bhaiji comes in between disguised as the evaluator of the treasure. Inspector Sajan (Sai Kumar) also comes the scene hoping to make some profit out of it and takes over as the head of security. In the middle of hatred and discomfort that prevails in the palace, can the man of disguises steal what he has come there to steal or will he lose his way?
The defence of Mr. Fraud :: How many real heist movies do we see in Malayalam movie industry? The other one concerning robbery was Robinhood which was really dumb and that movie had absolutely nothing, and we surely can’t bring Lokpal to the equation when talking about movies which are above average, even as there was the movies like Gangster which won’t stand a chance in front of even Lokpal. This need has been answered by Mr. Fraud which has enough heist moments, along with that idea which is in the centre. Even as it is not anywhere near those awesome heist movies that we watch in Hollywood, this one has managed to do the stuff in the same style, but weaker in content and execution. The movie, even as it has limited thrills, is never boring – that is a new considering how difficult it has been not to bore the audience. They have also managed to come up with a superior first half and nice early second half. The cast is also superb and most of them have played their characters with beauty. The movie hasn’t tried anything too much, it seemed to attempt and be a decent one, with mediocre elements and that is what is has managed to achieve.
The claws of flaw :: Mr. Fraud has had mostly negative or average reviews from the audience, and it has created a clear doubt when the memories of Lokpal comes to the mind. The biggest problem of the movie is that it is not sure about its own genre, and it deviates from its purpose more than once, adding too much emotions. The protagonist also doesn’t become the true fraud that he is supposed to be, not justifying the title – he is not even the exact opposite here. Some of the characters are not fully developed with so many of them there just for the sake of existing there under the shadow of doubt, and the ending is forced. The movie might seem to lose its steam during the climax, and all the action scenes which don’t involve the heists are quite bad, with the superhero side and slow motion taking over, but that is only about a few scenes. The superhero should have remained under or may be on par with the actor when we consider this movie. The background score often gets irritating and so do the songs which jump out of nowhere and the audience has to ask who let them out when they were not really needed.
Performers of the soul :: This is one of the triumvirate movies of Mohanlal which are expected to score big and release soon enough – Koothara, Peruchaazhi and this one, all three expected to be special for one reason or the other, and Mr. Fraud is the first one to reach the theatre despite so many delays. If I had to choose one among them earlier, I would have chosen Koothara to be the better one. This had to be his movie as it is, and from the family man role to this one, he runs the show as usual, and the good thing is that this doesn’t go to that level of Sagar Alias Jacky and there is the limit under control. His looks are nice and keeps things cool. Manjari Phadnis is there for the looks, but surely has her short moments, and Mia also got so much less to do even as she does that without any significant problems. Vijay Babu never gets to do a lot, but Siddique and Sai Kumar excel in the supporting roles as both are there in the roles which they have perfected before. Suresh Krishna in a bigger role would have been nice though, as the situation seemed to suit him, but that was not to be. Characterization, come up with more power next time!
Soul exploration :: There is the need for heist, and even Inception was about heist, wasn’t it? They were the ones who stole ideas, and planting an idea is just the same as stealing one, as one idea is lost while another one takes its place. Mission: Impossible also had its heists going through. Fast Five was a better heist movie than many of the full-time heist movies. So when the bogeyman steals our dreams and convert them into nightmares, isn’t he also a man who is part of this art? Can he be considered one of the first and the most efficient heist artists of all time? Even as it is nowhere near any of the mentioned, Mr. Fraud steals, and performs that operation well. For most of the people though, heist is an adventure, and in the case of such a ride, it has to be entertaining and having a better motive than just to steal. Heist is usually considered different from the usual robbery, and that word is often used positively, thanks to the heist films. The ambiguity remains in this movie too, if it is right to steal under any circumstance or not to; who is evil and who has the fountain of goodness flowing through? Well, the characters in movies like Big B was not with any goodness, and considering that people supported the main characters, the ones in heist movies are much better. Only if this wasn’t that mediocre, we could have come to a conclusion.
How it finishes :: Mr. Fraud is not as bad as some people might suggest, and a comparison to Lokpal is kind of ridiculous and the question of it being better than Gangster is answered with only one sentence – Gangster was the worst movie of the year, challenged only by Salaala Mobiles. It is brought down only by the hype it created, and by being mediocre. Well, Mr. Fraud has its advantages in the theatre, the most important one being the postponement of Bangalore Days which has such a multi-starrer cast that can bring every other movie down – How Old are You will hold onto its place for quite a long time as the family audience have taken it into hearts, and this position that Mr. Fraud was about to lose will be there for at least one week as Bangalore Days has been on a postpone-spree which might or might not end on the upcoming Friday. Kochadiiyaan is not creating the impact that it should have, and Heropanti is running low, so the only challenge that Malayalam movies have is from the English movies, but none of them can replace these movies in content, and they are miles apart in what they come up with, all three Hollywood movies in the theatre dealing with superheroes and super-monsters not really attracting the families.
Release date: 17th May 2014
Running time: 138 minutes
Directed by: B. Unnikrishnan
Starring: Mohanlal, Mia George, Manjari Phadnis, Vijay Babu, Pallavi Purohit, Dev Gill, Siddique, Sai Kumar, Vijayakumar, Rahul Madhav, P. Balachandran, Devan, Suresh Krishna, Rajeev Parameshwar, V.K. Sreeraman, Kalasala Babu, Sathaar, Balachandran Chullikkadu, Biju Pappan, Ashvin Matthew, Balaji, Amritha Anil
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