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Fishing in a Desertland: Manorama 6 ft under Saturday, 18 April, 2009

Posted by ~uh~™ in Bollywood.
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Who’s Manorama & why is she 6 feet under?

It’s the title that attracted me to this movie. Hearing good things on radio interviews about the plot generated further interest. Also, the interesting fact the Abhay Deol has become a “‘actor of debutant Directors” with 5 consecutive movies- Socha Na Tha, Ahista Ahista, Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd, Ek Chalis Ki Last Local & now Manorama Six Feet Under. 5 films. 5 directors. All debutant! Honestly after seeing HTPL & Ek Challis I did not gain any great admiration about Abhay Deol. But M6 changed my impression.

M6 is a slow suspense thriller, which explores story of a lifeless Randhawa through a mystery drama set in an Indian small town. This is a debut venture by Directror Navdeep Singh, calculatedly cast with prominent underrated actors.

The plot

Satyaveer Randhawa (Abhay Deol) is a Government Employee, posted as a Jr. Engineer in a Rajasthan small town Lokhat as an in-charge of an aqueduct construction site. Randhawa is otherwise a lifeless ordinary barring the fact that he’s an aspiring detective novel writer. Unfortunately, his life is in a big mess as he is caught for bribery & his first novel “Manorama” is flops big time with only 200 copies sold. The construction is on hold & all he has to do is wait for his fate regarding his suspension. His relationship with his wife Nimmi (Gul Panag) is cold with the last sparks of romance dying down everyday. They have a small kid & the only excitement in their life seems to be an Aquarium with few Goldfish & the game of snake & ladder.

Everything was dull & gloomy, till one night a mysterious not-so-young lady (Sarika), appears as a wife of a renowned local politician (Kulbhushan Kharbanda), at his doorstep asking for help. She wants Randhawa to play a real time detective to spy on his husband & shoot proofs of her husband’s acts of infidelity. Randhawa diligently completes the assignment, but things take a mysterious turn when Sarika dies in a road accident after uttering her last words “Manorama, 32” to a drunk Randhawa. The plot thickens with more mystery via sub plots with shady characters being introduced & slowly it appears that there’s a darker & murkier plot set involving the characters, which drags Randhawa into further mess. His wife leaves him behind during Diwali holidays & he is left only with his local police inspector Brother in law (Vinay Pathak) as support.

The clouds of obscurity clears slowly towards not to an- edge-of-the-seat climax.

Theme, Cinematography, Music, Direction

Everyone wants to make it big in life. Everyone aspires to grow from a small fish to a bigger fish, in smaller pond to bigger pond. What happens when you get a chance to trap a big fish?

The theme of this movie is slow, dark & muffled. Though I would not rate this movie as a brilliant suspense thriller, but there are few good points for which I would recommend the movie for serious cinema lovers.

The life, landscape & characters of this small town Lokhat in Rajasthan is brilliantly captured though the excellent cinematography, camera works & background score. What’s brilliant about this movie is the way it captures the essence of small town India. The narrative style direction is detail oriented with crisp editing giving smooth continuous flow. It is noticed that many times the dialogues/ narration starts before the scene starts- that’s a new experimentation I believe.

The scenes of Randhawa’s solo 2 wheeler rides amidst the barren landscape of Rajasthan is superb. Though it’s a bit prolonged at places, it’s definitely memorable.

There’s no song sequence in the movie.  Raiomond Mirza, Jayesh Gandhi’s music is well suited to the ambience. The desert chase scenes is brilliantly shot.

Cast performance

Abhay Deol plays Randhawa as a meek but robust character quite pleasantly. The actor has matured enough to do such character roles. He plays an aloof husband, a lazy dad, a needy friend & above all a curious detective. Undoubtedly, his brightest (or darkest) performance in a dark role. He carries the entire film on his shoulder – like a heavily loaded camel that has to cross a desert to deliver. Slow, focused & determined. His character depiction during the mundane domestic conversation or during the drink sessions with Vinay looks too real. In fact the new moustache & stubble gave him a tougher look though inside he is still as docile & wanton as in Ek Chalis ki last local!

Vinay Pathak as the bachelor cop is absolutely real & lively. His accent, succulent one-liners, moustache & overall delivery were outstanding. His flawless screen presence brought freshness in the otherwise acrid tone. Watch out his dialogue delivery “Kutte ki haddi aur politician ki chaddi mein haath mat dalo- ek mein 14 injection lag jati hai, aur dusre mein lag jati hai, pata bhi nahin chalta..” Hope this man gets more meaningful roles & uses his potential to the fullest.

Gul Panag plays the lukewarm housewife in nightie, the life support of Randhawa. I felt she was a bit oddball, because of her accent that contradicts a small town upbringing. Notice the way she says “Happy Diwali“- far away from a Rohtak girl, anytime. She did not have much to do anyway.

Raima Sen plays a very important role, which unfortunately can’t be detailed here to retain the suspense. Her innocent looks & the brief bonding with Randhawa brings a little glow in the otherwise dark story, before it plunges into deeper darkness. She is visibly comfortable in her on-screen character. She did talk with her eyes, reminded me of her grandma Suchitra Sen.

Sarika has a small but very critical screen presence. However some more effort could have given to portray her natural age, I felt. Whether 32 were her screen age or waist size, will remains a mystery.

Kharbanda as the baddie still talks like Shakal (Shaan). His role reminded me of him in Fire, perverted notions unmasked.

The verdict

The movie could have been given a reco with 4 star, if the story was more grasping & screenplay was faster. The storytelling was better than the story itself, which lead to a predictable letdown at climax. The lower rating is just because of the loose sub-plots & slow screenplay. Watch is for the cinematography & performances on a relaxed late night show. Stay awake else you may miss something in M6.

ps: Abhay would be hitting a six as his next film Meridian also has a debutant director Venod Mitra at the helm !

Note: When this review was posted Abhay’s Next film was to be Meridian. But instead Anurag Kashyap’s Dev D was released which was his 6th film. Later I have also learnt that the B&W movie he was watching in Manorama was Polanski‘s famous noir Chinatown.


1. Abha - Tuesday, 21 April, 2009

HTPL, you didnt like, i can unnerstand, but why hate ek challis? i loved it! 😀 but then i am not a serious critic and hence allowed to have frivilous tastes! 😉

manoarama was indeed in interesting movie with some great performances! well, the movie is also inspired by Chinatown, innit? the resemblances are uncanny!

its cool when directors show their inspirations unbashedly! the way shriram has shown Parwana in Johny G! 🙂

great review as always!

~uh~: Ek Challis was too raw for my taste. Especially the Police inspector and Neha Dhupia was abominable. Except, for Abhay Deol I could not stand any of the characters. Though the story was good, I found the cast and screenplay to be horrible.

Manorama is one of the modern cinema noir in Hindi. Of course the Director was greatly influenced by Polanski and officially acknowledged the basis as Chinatown.
I thought you have read all my old reviews on MS, looks like I was wrong :p

2. Wake Up Sid: Serene Serendipity « AEIOU ¿ ® - Tuesday, 6 October, 2009

[…] That leaves me with a very rare occurrence- a new Bollywood movie which is also a Directoral debut, that I can’t resist writing about [Examples- Khosla Ka Ghosla, Taare Zameen Par, Manorama 6 ft Under] […]

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