Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Manorama Six Feet Under

Rating : 8/10
Running Time : 138 minutes
Release Date : 21st Sep ‘07
Director : Navdeep Singh ; Writer : Devika Bhagat, Navdeep Singh ; Music : Jayesh Gandhi, Raiomond Mirza
Starring : Abhay Deol, Raima Sen, Gul Panag, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Vinay Pathak

I don’t care that this film is ‘inspired’ by Chinatown (Btw, you can see a clip from this film during the movie), that it isn’t completely original. I think Navdeep Singh, in his directorial debut has done a great job of ‘Indianising’ a very complex plot and, especially if you haven’t seen Chinatown, keeping you glued to the end of the film.

Satyaveer (Abhay Deol) is a failed writer of detective stories, a la James Hadley Chase. His first book, Manorama, sold only 200 copies and he doesn’t even keep a single copy of his book in his own house as it reminds him of his own failure. He is now a site engineer in a very small town, called Lokhat, in Rajasthan – and even suspended from that job on suspicion of taking bribes.
He enjoys a love-hate relationship with his wife, Nimmi (Gul Panag). They clearly love each other but she doesn’t waste any opportunity reminding him of his failure to achieve anything. Throughout the movie they continue to have a running conversation about the people they’d met for marriage before they got married to each other. Their humdrum existence however, is infinitely spiced up when Manorama (Sarika) walks in unannounced and hires Satyaveer to spy on her husband, P.P.Rathore, the MP, ex-king and prominent personality of the town. She suspects him of having an extra-marital affair and wants Satyaveer to photograph / catch him red-handed. But as in most JHC novels / film noir’s, nothing is what it seems and one twist is topped minutes later by another revelation. The plot is further enlivened by Brij Mohan (Vinay Pathak), a local cop and Nimmi’s brother and Sheetal (Raima Sen), who works in an orphanage run by PP Rathore / is Manorama’s room-mate.

The brilliance of the film lies in combining the steamy, constricting nature of the plot with some lovely Indian touches – both in terms of language (ages since I heard words like ‘KLPD’ or even ‘zara si savdhani, zindagi bhar aasani’ for example) and in terms of the scenery (beautiful shots of the desert, great expanses of nothing, where the emptiness of the landscape is combined with lots of action). And I loved the way the film is paced – moments where nothing is happening are suddenly followed by frenetic action, peace and calm replaced by threats, intimidation and brutal violence. The performances are great as well. Abhay Deol is a revelation – I didn’t think he had it in him to do such a role, manage the different nuances required from him, plus it was an inspired decision to have him with a moustache / stubble, totally transforming his look. Gul Panag is very, very good (as you would expect) and Raima Sen & Kulbhushan Kharbanda do all that is required of their characters. The other revelation is Vinay Pathak as a rogue cop, who cannot utter a single sentence without mixing it with three profanities, who thinks nothing of beating up prisoners with a belt in front of his young nephew, who is good friends with his brother –in-law and even advises him about his marital problems (with his sister). I’ve realized that one of the things that makes Vinay such a good character actor is how he varies his body language and voice to totally blend in with the role he’s playing.

I like film-noirs and I’m thrilled there were two decent ones in Bollywood this year (Johnny Gaddar being the other). Navdeep Singh shows great promise with his deft handling of this very complex subject. And in fairness to him, he hasn’t copied Chinatown, scene by scene but just taken the essence and transferred the locale masterfully to rural Rajasthan (kind of like Vishal Bhardwaj transferring Othello to Uttar Pradesh in Omkara). You will enjoy this one whether you’ve seen Chinatown or not, it’s a good film in its own right !


Anonymous said...

Read the review twice and guess I need to watch the filmy to understand the thingy :)..Very few movies with good rating and I guess this movie is wrth a watch and has some connection to the real world(detective etc).. Thnx for the review and change of opinion if any I shall update..

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Anonymous said...

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Worth Watching this movie