Anthony Kaun Hai? Oops...Manorama Kaun Hai? Last year, a tale of mistaken identity, crime and redemption was told in a light hearted manner in Sanjay Dutt - Arshad Warsi starrer ANTHONY KAUN HAI. This year, things turn a little serious, in fact quite serious, in MANORAMA SIX FEET UNDER. The question looming large? Manorama Kaun Hai? And is it a human being we are talking about? Or is it an object? Or worse, is it something non existant? And by the way, what is this entire theory of 'Six Feet Under'?
Number of questions. And all being quite intelligently handled by writer-director Navdeep Singh who certainly has taken his first step in the right direction. Of course there are some rough edges but that can be pardoned for the sheer will power and committment on Navdeep's part to say "Let me tell a different story in a different way".
And different MANORAMA SIX FEET UNDER indeed is! Otherwise in how many movies do you see a mainstream hero [Abhay Deol] getting into the kind of mould (from characterisation perspective) which actors of the likes of Om Puri, Naseeruddin Shah and Pankaj Kapoor used to in late 80s when New Wave/New Age cinema showed it's unfamiliar face for the first time.
There has been homage to Shakespearean and other great writers in some of the films released this decade. Now get set to witness a tale that picks up it's thread from railway station book stalls where cheesy novels by writers such as Surendra Mohan Pathak, Kumar, Vikrant etc. have been selling for decades. So much so that the character played by Abhay Deol even has his pet name as Surendar Mohan. Some homage here!
As a suspended 'I am open to bribes' Government Engineer, Abhay Deol's aspirations to rise above the 'Manohar Kahaniyaan' bracket writer are fulfilled for a mere Rs. 20000 when he gets an offer of his boring lifetime to spy on Mr. MLA [Kulbhushan Kharbanda] by his wife [Sarika]. His job? Get an account of his escapades.
His wife [Gul Panag], who still holds grudges of 'you should have used a condom on the first night', does have her doubts about his detective skills but stands by him like any subsimissive woman. It isn't going to be any task though for Abhay who goes about clicking low resolution, ordinary quality pictures with his Rs. 900 Kodak camera. It turns out though that the bigger picture was much more than a dozen odd pictures in his camera.
Bodies start falling down and skeletons come tumbling out of closets. A couple of local goons, a mysterious woman [Raima Sen], an Inspector brother in law [Vinay Pathak], a local woman, a doctor, an orphanage runner, a nagging neighbor and a wheel bound old lady - all of them come together to turn around Abhay's life even as he struggles to find out the mystery behind Manorama and the connection which the name had with all the mayhem surrounding him.
Like any other good thriller, the beauty of MANORAMA also lies in the fact that the solution/evidence is right in front of you from the very beginning of the film with enough hints being dropped which are hardly caught by an audience. And when the secret unfolds, one tends to get into a collective gasp - 'Ok, so this was it'! Here too, Abhay explores the 'hows', 'whens' and the 'whys' at the risk of his life and the ugly truth does leave a bad taste in his month - literally!
Anything that doesn't quite work for the film? The pace of the film becomes slow at a couple of instances in the first half with the beginning of second half being a complete letdown. Agree that the small town laziness and built up of characters (mainly Raima) had to be brought to fore but from an audience point of view, it is expected that they would want the drama to unfold quicker.
Film's cinematography is it's strength as well as weakness. Strength because th