NH10 Movie Review

Thursday, March 12, 2015
Starring: Anushka Sharma, Neil Bhoopalam, Darshan Kumar
Director: Navdeep Singh
Writer: Sudeep Sharma
Producers: Phantom Films, Clean Slate Films
Distributor: Eros International
The first thing that strikes you about NH 10 is how real it is. And how sparse yet fulsome it’s story is. Pregnant with silences that speak volumes, in typical cinema of journey format, NH 10 is a disturbing but thrilling ride that sucks you right in.
The film establishes the stark, everyday contrast in the lives of Gurgaon’s residents by showcasing a scary incident. Meera and Arjun are married, rich, beautiful and ambitious (Anushka Sharma & Neil Bhoopalam). A wayward incident that threatens her life brings a sense of permanent worry in Meera’s life.

With the police helpless to manage many porous borders between Haryana’s badlands and glittering Gurgaon, Meera is advised to buy a gun for her protection. And the weapon sits heavy on her lissome hand. Its layered beginning impressed me for setting up the reality of Gurgoan instantaneously. Like a cocky middle finger raised to poverty & neglect of rural Gurgaon, the new glass and chrome high rises of this suburb dazzle you with flashy, nouveau money & a glamorous lifestyle. Yet just minutes away from the posh gated communities, are rural folk who eke out a living from poorly paying blue-collar jobs. Gurgaon is also an artificially cut out portion from Haryana. And Haryana, which scores higher than most Indian states in female infanticide, rape & crime, shares many porous borders with Gurgaon. Director Navdeep Singh uses sparse dialogue but plenty of bottled up feelings and problems, (including gender bias at the work place), to establish Meera’s sense of discomfort.
NH 10 progresses with a weekend break that Arjun plans for Meera. Their holiday takes a nasty turn when the couple witnesses a case of abduction and violence in broad daylight. Despite Meera’s counsel, Arjun takes it upon himself to figure out this ‘mess’. They witness violence & brutality at an unmatched scale. Scared witless, they must escape being witnesses to these coordinated acts by men from one village. Here begins their painful, desperate scramble to safety. Post interval, when the police turn out to be connivers, Meera’s encounter with a woman sarpanch (a surprise there!) brings out both the survivor & avenger in her.
Rather than focus on the film’s story, I would like to highlight the unique storytelling method that Navdeep Singh uses for his films. His cityscapes are characters, their realities impossible to detach from the central concept. He plays with colloquial practices, beliefs, angers & fears. And he hardly uses dialogue. I wish in this film he had used some more. Having said that, NH 10 sucks you in from that point in the plot when the film takes a macabre turn. What it chillingly brings to focus is how commonplace it is to kill, maim or abuse in rural Haryana.
Actually, if you take a close look, such realities lie hidden under a reed thin surface in almost all rural (and urban) places of our country. And that a new India- snazzy, spend thrift, bold & agnostic- is creeping into these realities at an alarming rate, makes their clash all the more violent. How women play catalysts at different levels in this story makes for rewarding viewing.
Anushka Sharma is brilliant as Meera. She has always come across as a genuine cut above the rest. She proves that by playing Meera in a completely relatable manner. Darshan Kumar & Neil Bhoopalam are competent, but the film’s gritty journey is so overwhelming that paying attention to the performances becomes difficult. At times, odd (but hummable) songs are inserted, perhaps to tame the blood letting onscreen.
A special word for the nuances captured by NH10. In most parts of India, you will see a swear word written on the door of a ladies loo. Sometimes, when you go to a policeman for help, he will tell you why you shouldn’t wear/eat/ do something in a certain manner ‘for your own safety’. Meera’s reactions merge with mine and perhaps with most women, reiterating how real these incredible situations actually is.
Kudos to Anushka Sharma for co producing this film with Phantom- at least it got the requisite support that a film like this needs. Watch NH 10 for a real, but cinematically brilliant ride. It’s hard to stomach, but then so is the inimical Indian reality that it portrays on screen.
Ticket Price Value: 80 per cent.

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