Note: I love mystery thrillers! Of late, very few movies in Bollywood are of this genre. The latest I have liked was Kahaani. So imagine my surprise when I bump into one of those lesser known, offbeat thrillers in Bollywood. What a treat!
IMDB Entry: Manorama Six Feet Under
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Firstly, I would like to say, if you are expecting too much action, big star cast and some Bollywood style melodrama and production values, you might as well stay clear of this movie. Although I do consider Abhay Deol as not only a big star but a seal of approval for offbeat movies (going by his track record of Dev D, Oye Lucky Lucky Oye, Ek Chaalis ki Last Local...). So if you are willing to consider an offbeat, suspense movie in a rustic setting, look no more. This is one of those niche movies.
The movie takes place in a sleepy town of Lakhot, Rajasthan. Abhay Deol plays Satyaveer, a bored middle class resident who works at the local municipality as a Junior Engineer. His wife Nimmi (played by Gul Panag), plays a nagging housewife who loves her TV serials and taunts his husband for the middle class lifestyle. Satyaveer's passion is writing but unfortunately his first book "Manorama" (a detective novel) reminds him of his failure as a writer (the book sells only 200 copies). He is so disappointed by its failure, that he does not own even a single copy of his own book. One day, he is approached by a minister's wife, also called Manorama (played by Sarika) who is suspicious that her husband is having an extra marital affair. She pays him to investigate as a private detective and take pictures of his affair, so she can gather evidence about his adultery.
What follows is an intriguing plot where Satyaveer gets implicated in a double homicide, suicide of Manorama and a missing girl child from a local orphanage. The rest of the plot is how he connects the dots and solves the mystery.
Abhay Deol, is definitely one of the most underrated actors in Indian film industry. He gives life to the character of Satyaveer - both as a passionate detective and as a disappointed writer and husband. The rural setting of the Rajasthan town works well for the story and gives an authentic feel. The movie is slow at times, but picks up pace in the second half. The movie has plenty of good old fashioned detective thrills to it and also at the same time keeps you guessing - very unpredictable storyline. The movie runs on the stellar performances from Abhay Deol, Gul Panag and the supporting cast. I was surprised to see Nawazuddin Siddiqui in an insignificant role as a local goon - but I guess he got more popular only after Kahaani and Gangs of Wasseypur. He is definitely an actor to watch out for.
This movie is not fast paced so it is not a stylish action thriller and nor is it a modern one at that. It is a simple story with the right amount of creepiness and mystery that will keep you hooked if you are ok with its slackish pace in the first half. But I also think that is one of the reasons that make a mystery movie worth a watch - the slow unfolding of characters and sub-stories that add to the plot make it intriguing and suspenseful. Plus, this movie is set in a small town and going by that it has to be slow and uneventful. As a middle class Indian, I could really connect with some social issues that stand out in the movie - the way your neighbors pry on your privacy, small town corruption, greed and the rich poor inequality.
The movie, it seems is inspired by Roman Polanski's Chinatown (I haven't seen that movie yet), but I really don't care because the storytelling has been adapted perfectly for an Indian setting. This movie is a must-watch for mystery buffs!