NH10

NH10-poster

NH10
Release date: March 13, 2015
Directed by: Navdeep Singh
Cast: Anushka Sharma, Neil Bhoopalam, Darshan Kumar, Deepti Naval

In the cinematic universe, every time a conflicted couple go in for a roadtrip, things are about to get messy. In a similar setting, Navdeep Singh’s NH10 is conceived.

You know something is off, and keep fearing the worst right from the point where Meera (Anushka Sharma) is chased by masked men on an urban freeway. Arjun (Neil Bhoopalam) is her protective husband, who doesn’t see the need to argue with a police officer when he recommends Meera buy a gun for her own safety. The getting a gun advise by a cop makes us laugh in Linklater’s Before Sunset, but here it doesn’t and it doesn’t intend on either.

On their way to a weekend getaway, they are faced with an eerie troubled young girl and a boy. They’re like the last living pair of humans in a haunted house, who are trying to warn the new owners of the doomed property. Except here, they are asking for help, to elope and possibly stay out of their family members’ clutches. Darshan Kumar plays the obsessive Haryanvi brother Satbir, who’s out to right the “wrongs” of his sister. He will kill for honor and he does end up killing for way less than that.

The two disparate sets of characters cross paths when Arjun interferes after once standing up to Satbir and his other relatives’ public humiliation of the troubled young girl and boy. This crossing of paths triggers a confrontation and evolves into a constantly violent and brutal back and forth between the two sides. In the dark and blood-thirsty wild, a police officer echoes the film’s social commentary, i.e. where the malls of Gurgaon end, a land of lawlessness begins. Where every being is governed and “saved” by the caste system, and not the Constitution.

The said violence is extensive, and creates a mood for the film’s final payoff. The metamorphosis of a shriveling Meera to an iron-rod wielding steely eyed avenger is supremely brilliant. Anushka’s character grows from an ordinary ad professional to an unrelenting and an unrepentant crusader, from clean and chic outfits to walking with a limp and blood on her. Stellar performance indeed.

NH10 doesn’t deliver all its sermons in a preach-out-loud fashion, it shows more than it tells. Every woman is equated to a glorified sex-worker in a patriarchal society, where violence against its women is cheered on. The jungle back and forth between Satbir and his other blood-thirsty relatives and Meera and Arjun could be inspired, but the dystopia of life for women being bad is no more imaginary or unreal. The most telling sign of that is where a woman slaps her daughter-in-law and the abused’s own son laughs at that sight.

The detailing on the little things is immaculate here, yet sometimes the protagonist’s escapes seem a little more smart than they should be, and contrived to be a little harsh. But again, the wild goose hunt starts very soon and it’s obvious that the characters have to be sustained to tell the story. NH10’s cinematography is the surreal winner here, right down to the close shots of Meera dragging the iron rod through her numb walk up to the fallen Jats.

The background score is ample, and more than what’s needed here. Thus proving to be unnecessary at certain points, but it’s a bane you can live with. The soundtrack is a complete surprise though. Again, a tad misplaced at times, but it’s still very fresh and plot-centered in its lyrics. Not to forget, Darshan Kumar’s Haryanvi accent along with that of Deepti Naval’s sounds flawless.

NH10 is a thrilling saga with heaps of unflinching gore, and a topical story which could unravel in any part of India, or the world with a gentle tweak of the notes. If there ever were a film as synonymical with the colloquial “hard-hitting”, it is NH10.

My rating: ***1/2 (3.5 out of 5)

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  1. November 1st, 2015
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