For all the talk that surrounds the booming culture of multiplexes, corporate houses investing money, small films (finally) managing to make their mark and innovative concepts being accepted in a big way by niche audience, it comes across as an unpleasant surprise to see a film like Manorama Six Feet Under finding it's audience only in the DVD circuits.
The reason for this is that the film was a disaster at the box office, hence turning out to be an antithesis to the intrinsic qualities it boasted of.
This film had everything going in it's favour, be it an original storytelling, setting in (true) noir genre, career best performance by Abhay Deol, imaginative background score, class cinematography which could match international standards and a shocking ending. Yet this suspense thriller lost out at the box office. The reason for the disaster is poor promotional strategy, market placement and lack of thought in identifying the target audience!
Half hearted publicity and poor show timing selection at the multiplexes pulled down the response to the movie. Result was that the film came, impressed the critics, got high ratings and by the time news reached the audience, it was time for Manorama Six Feet Under to announce adieu in one week flat.
Set in a small town Lakhot (somewhere in Rajasthan), the film is a jigsaw puzzle with pieces like corruption, voyeurism, extra marital temptations and lies fitting together to create an image which is totally unpredictable.
Anything that doesn't quite work for the film? The pace of the film becomes slow at a couple of instances in the first half with the beginning of second half being a complete letdown. The small town laziness and built up of characters had to be brought to fore but from an audience point of view, it is expected that they would want the drama to unfold quicker.
Still, like any other good thriller, the beauty of Manorama Six Feet Under also lies in the fact that the evidence is right in front of you from the very beginning of the film with enough hints being dropped which are hardly caught by an audience.
And when the secret unfolds, one tends to get into a collective gasp - 'Ok, so this was it'! Here too, Abhay explores the 'hows', 'whens' and the 'whys' at the risk of his life and the ugly truth does leave a bad taste in his month - literally!
Manorama Six Feet Under comes in a thick paper case with a proud mention of the film being 'Most Critically Acclaimed Film of the Year' and 'Winner of Best Film Award at MIAAC Film Festival - New York'. It also features some glowing reviews that the film received.
The film comes in a single DVD with the film's duration being 137 minutes and approximately 50 minutes of added features.
'Making of the film' is an engaging watch. Ok, so there are clichéd talks about 'how so and so actor is quote good' or 'how we bonded on the sets' or 'how Rajasthan was one of the characters' etc. etc. but still there are certain comments and behind the scenes happenings which make you give this 23 minutes segment a 'dekko.'
What is interesting though, are honest confessions from producer Ketan Maroo and Abhay Deol. While Maroo admits that he didn't quite understand what the film was all about when narrated the first time around, Abhay gives a candid account of how he was approached by Navdeep Singh when the original actor in the director's mind couldn't be taken on board.
It is surprising though to see Navdeep picking up his favourite scene as the post-love making scene between Abhay and Gul. In spite of the film's essence being a thriller, Gul's line of 'Agar mard ko pallu se bandhna ho to usse bistar pe baandhe rakho' is what Navdeep fondly remembers. However, when producer Ketan Maroo states that "We would give the film full backup; no one would feel that it has been less promoted,” one wonders if the cast and the director of the film share the same sentiments!
In most of the DVDs, one watches 'Deleted Scenes' with utmost attention as more often than not they do turn out to be engaging. But in case of Manorama Six Feet Under, one is indeed content with the fact that none of these scenes eventually made to the final cut.
Thankfully, even after a poor fate at the box office, this film directed by debutant director Navdeep Singh (an established ad film maker) continued to make news even after it's exit from the theatres. Blogs, various forums, pirated DVDs, international awards, recent nominations in various award functions and the biggest of all - continued word of mouth by patrons have all contributed to giving a kick start to Manorama Six Feet Under at the stores as the DVD hits the stands. Got for it to witness a unique storytelling.
RATING: * * *1/2