Originally written for - Passionforcinema.com. The artixle has been originally published here.
If you go by the 'white is white, black is black' definition of right and wrong, then Manorma Six Feet Under is a copy of Chinatown. And it kind of bothered me a wee bit before I sat down watching it. But, not after that. Not even a wee bit. I had not seen Chinatown by that time. And I chanced to see Chinatown couple of days later, and my admiration of Manorma Six Feet increased further. Albeit inspired (or copied, or whatever), this is a good movie. No doubt.
The movie opens in a Rajasthan, where the land is as thirsty for water as is the protagonist (Abhay Deol playing Satyaveer) thirsty for recognition, success. The vast, dry land as a backdrop make for good visuals. In particular, the scenes where the protagonist is shown driving his vehicle. Simple. Captivating. SV, an engineer by profession, a pulp novelist by passion is finding it difficult to get his life moving courtesy a nagging wife, an unsuccessful job.
One day, he meets Sarika and she gives a purpose to his humdrum life. He has to click some photos for her, so that she may be able to blackmail her 'politician' husband and which may facilitate the process of divorce for her. SV soon comes to know that things are not as straight forward as he thought they were. Speeding one night on the highway, he meets her again. She is very panicky and says something to him. The next morning he reads the paper. She is dead. And she was not the wife of Chief Minister. SV is obviously startled by this sudden revelation and wants to put to rest all the confusion.
The movie moves at a good pace initially, fully in control, holding the viewer's interest, scenes tend to merge into one another comfortably. However, somewhere in the middle (and that is the movie's negative point), the movie becomes painfully slow. Everything ceases to happen. You feel you can go take a cold drink from your fridge, reply to your friend's scrap, send an SMS or two and still it won't affect you. Not very thriller like, you would want to say. May be the comatose pace in between is intentional, it contrasts well with the full of twists, exciting and a good paced climax. The sudden change of gears takes you aback. The movie's climax is icing on the cake. It moves swiftly and makes you question your judgment about every character. No one is 'noir' here in the literal sense; the grayness of the character makes a compelling climax.
Performance wise, Abhay Deol carries the movies on his shoulders. I was never a fan of Abhay Deol. But, after watching 'Socha Na Tha' and 'MSFU' in a space of two weeks, I am now. He may not be the next big thing in boll wood, but he is here to stay. In this movie, he plays the role of a frustrated man to a T. the frustration is there, you can feel it. It never comes out though, but you think it can. Anytime. That is the beauty of the character and the way Abhay Deol has portrayed it. In the movie, the guy may be 25, but looks like 35, and acts like 45. Sarika lights up the screen every time she appears and sparkles in a small role. Kulbhushan Kharbhanda has nothing special to offer, Vinay Pathak doesn't disappoint. Raima Sen is not breathtaking, but she is not bad either to spoil the movie. Gul Panag could have been a tad better with her pronunciations. I liked the way she pronounces 'Editor' as 'A-Dee-tur' in her first scene but after that her pronunciation is a bit polished for comfort. She acts pretty well though, something I was pleasantly surprised at. Background music is superb. It is slow, subtle and is faithful to the movie's pace.
This movie might not be a Chinatown. And somewhere down the line, I think the makers of MSFU knew that. Albeit an inspired story, the execution is top class. A good movie. A good tribute to a good movie. Polanski would be happy to see Manorma Six Feet Under.