Film: Manorama Six Feet Under
Director: Navdeep Singh
Producer: Ketan Maru
Cast: Abhay Deol, Gul Panag, Raima Sen, Vinay Pathak, Khulbhushan Kharbanda and Sarika
Rating: 2.5 / 5
First works are always measure of a maker’s talent as well as experienceâ€¦and the directorial debut of director Navdeep Singh clearly signals that he is no novice in film-making.
An account of a failed writer trying to find his voice again, Manorama: Six Feet Under is a suspense thriller in the film noir genre that makes for a lucid and engrossing watch. The film is not only well-crafted but also efficiently handled, credit for which goes to Navdeep Singh who is the writer-director of the film.
Manoramaâ€¦is set in a small town of Rajasthan, Lakhot and revolves around the character Satyaveer Singh played superbly by Abhay Deol. Satyaveer is a failed detective fiction writer who is stuck in a Govt. job and who finds the disuse of his creative instincts frustrating. An offer to play real-life detective by Manorama (Sarika) calls out to his latent desire to indulge in his true interests. The charade which begins as an exercise in self-expression soon becomes a tangled web of deceit, lies, murder in the murky world of power where nothing seems what it is. The lessons and morals that are thrown up in the follow-up to these events ultimately form the rest of the film and is the take-home as well.
The film has a number of plus points to it’s credit that complement the narration within its genre. A strong script with a good screenplay and well-rounded characters make for a meaningful and engrossing watch. Although, the flow could have been tighter and resolutions could have been less convenient, the writing is definitely clever. But what stands out in its striking nature is the tone the director has lent the small town of Lakhot, extending it to the treatment of relationships, characters and even thrills. Stark but not shocking, sparse but not vacant, moody but not dreary, this air permeates the film defining its central personality. Cinematography brilliantly supports the treatment with its adequate play of light and shade and encompassing the vistas of a small town in expansive frames. The narrative technique of realism gets a face-lift in this show-it-as-it-is film about things that do not seem what they are.
But the fate of this superb realism remains to be seen with a desensitised audience used to seeing the gloss and polish of Bollywood. By far it is this treatment that makes the film more slow-paced than it is necessary. It is to the credit of the screenplay and visual treatment that the suspense and interest are sustained but it would have been advantageous for the film if it had been a little faster. Some very good acting skills by the principal cast Abhay Deol, Gul Panag, Raima Sen and also supporting actors like the versatile Vinay Pathak, Khulbhushan Kharbanda and Sarika lend the grace, that engages where the pace lets down the audience.
Another factor in the seeming tardiness of the tempo is the crunching of twists and edging of human and social issues within the film. To say it has done justice to it would be generous as it does affect pace and congruity but neither is the effort at inter-lacing amateurish. The director knows what he wants to say, and explores different ways of doing so well within his means.
Alas, in the process this exploration does affect the engagement of the viewer with the film. The varieties of twists are enmeshed with a variety of angles the film takes and it tries to simplify it all by taking the safest route, the all-knowing voiceover. This seemingly simplistic device fails to drive the intended effect instead does the film a great disservice by dis-engaging the viewer from the central events bringing undue attention to the process and the character.
The multiple levels at which this film operates vis-Ã -vis basic murder mystery, self-expression, power and its dynamic, the karmic cycle etc., is the core strength of the film. But for a commercial film which is widely expected to be a suspense thriller, some hard knocks of climactic resolutions become necessary to send home the viewer satisfied. Moreover, as a suspense film, it does not reveal its realisations as expected. The process of sleuthing is intriguing but does not lead the audience to the answer robbing it of the engagement again. The answers are wisely deduced by Abhay and flung at the audience in clever repartees. This kind of treatment does not allow a complete catharsis, especially for a suspense thriller.
For a commercial film, the climax and its involved angles may prove too cerebral to the audience expecting some visceral thrills. Nevertheless, if one enjoys a story well-told then Manoramaâ€¦ is the film one can definitely catch.
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