Manorama Cast: Abhay Deol, Sarika, Raima Sen, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Vinay Pathak, Gul Kirat Panag, Brijendra Kale, Jogiji; Director: Navdeep Singh; Rating: ***

Manorama – Six Feet Under starts on a promising note. Abhay Deol is Satyaveer Singh (SV), a PWD engineer. He likes to write in his spare time and dreams of becoming a famous writer of detective stories. But this dream of his has already been shattered once, as his one and only published novel Manorama gets a sad response (only 200 copies sold). Therefore, he accepts bribe in cash or kind to support his existence. So, Satyaveer gets back to leading a normal existence with his wife Nimmi (Gul Panag) and kid, with dreams of Yana Gupta.

On one such ordinary day (actually night) of SV’s life, a middle-aged woman, Meenakshi Rathore (Sarika) stops by his house. She is the wife of a powerful minister PP Rathore (Kulbhushan Kharbanda) and suspects her husband is having an affair with another woman. Meenakshi claims to be a fan of SV’s novel Manorama, and wants him to spy on her husband. She offers Rs 20,000 for the job.

Seeing financial gain, SV agrees, and goes about trailing the minister. He hands over a roll of film to Meenakshi – pictures of Rathore talking to a woman who arrives late into the night. When SV is on his ‘second honeymoon’ with his wife, he discovers the woman posing as the politician’s wife is not who she claims to be. And as it happens, Meenakshi dies under mysterious circumstances.

SV can’t sleep and begins investigating her death on his own, even after being warned by his brother-in-law and police inspector, Brij Mohan (played perfectly by Vinay Pathak). SV finds out about Sheetal (Raima Sen), Meenakshi’s roomie, and talks to her.

As he digs deeper, two goons threaten him, leaving him without his bike and with three broken fingers. When Nimmi’s away for Diwali at Rohtak, SV gets a call from Sheetal saying that her life is in danger. Hesitatingly, he gives her shelter in his own house.

  As they try to unfold the mystery together, sparks start flying. Sheetal happens to work in an orphanage of the minister Rathore. Taking advantage of this fact, SV tries to hang around at the place during a function. He spots the same young woman whom he had shot talking to the minister at night.

Upon probing further, SV comes to know that the young woman is Rathore’s daughter born out of wedlock. She is fighting to get her father’s name so she can marry her boyfriend, the same doctor. Surprisingly, both of them are killed too, and SV is seen by the maid with the dead bodies.

Rathore’s men threaten to kill SV and his family if the pictures Meenakshi had are not handed over. SV obediently hunts for the pictures in a photo lab, only to learn there was another roll, which Meenakshi had taken with her.

Manorama Unable to understand what’s happening, SV’s about to throw one of the pictures he’s shot, when he spots a li’l girl peeping through a glass door in it.

Suddenly, he remembers what Meenakshi had said to him minutes before her death – “Yaad rakhna, mera naam Manorama hai aur umar battis saal” (Remember, my name is Manorama and age is 32). He hunts for his book Manorama at the dead doctor’s house, since he doesn’t have a copy of his own (ironic, if only 200 copies have been sold!).

SV also picks up some land documents and Rathore’s medical file from the spot. He reads what’s written on page 32 of his book. Room No.101 of Hotel Natraz is where he’ll find the solution to the whole puzzle. He somehow finds the missing pictures in the room and unravels the mystery.

Rathore is trying to build a canal on an unsuitable plot of land, so that the land prices appreciate and he can sell off land around the site, which he owns. Manorama aka Meenakshi wants to stop this at all costs, and so blackmails him with the pictures – which show the politician sexually abusing girls from his own orphanage.

Another revelation is that the doctor in question is Manorama’s brother, and he hides the fact from Rathore that he has lung cancer. This way, the minister would die a slow death and the doc would get all his property after marrying his daughter.

Abhay Deol’s stubble, and his acting. Abhay glides in his role as SV; so much so that even after the film’s over, you remember Satyaveer and not Abhay Deol. Boy, this is one Deol who lays less stress on action and more on acting.

Director Navdeep Singh has beautifully captured everyday life in simple scenes like the couple fighting for a remote while watching TV. The movie has an authentic feel to it, in terms of the sets and locations, and the characterisations.

Gul Panag is quite good as the typical housewife who runs her own beauty parlour on the side but having bigger dreams. She seems to have worked well on her diction for the role (where sometimes Abhay falls behind).

Raima Sen does full justice to her role as Sheetal. Sarika has a very small role, albeit one which forms the twist. Vinay Pathak and Kulbhushan Kharbanda are seasoned actors and do not falter, though Vinay is getting a bit predictable in these kinds of roles.

What we didn’t like: The pace of the film. It’s too slow. A murder mystery’s got to be faster and smoother, especially if it comes without songs. Some editing would’ve helped.

A story well told, but lacks the pace. Worth a watch on a DVD at home.

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