Cast: Anushka Sharma, Neil Bhoopalam, Deepti Naval
Director: Navdeep Singh
By Mayur Lookhar
Wisdom says you should not invite any trouble, but director Navdeep Singh thinks otherwise as he treads on the dangerous path of ‘Nh 10’, one that leaves its protagonist shocked, battered and bruised, but eventually she come out as a survivor (if not a winner).
Now, keeping in with the practice of preserving a film’s mystery, I usually don’t pay much attention to trailers or press stories, but with ‘NH 10’, I feared whether its makers aren’t driving straight from Imtiaz Ali’s ‘Highway’. Thankfully, it turned out to nothing like it. For ‘NH 10’ isn’t about a pretty damsel trying to reform her kidnapper. Here they are butchers borne out of social ills that plague urban Gurgaon to the remotest villages of Haryana.
Meera (Anushka Sharma) is a Bangalore-born biz executive living happily with her husband Arjun (Neil Bhoopalam) in Gurgaon. A foiled attempt to rape in urban Gurgaon leaves Meera shell shocked, and she starts fearing for our safety. Arjun arranges a licensed gun for her, oblivious to the fact that the couple would soon have a need to pull the trigger.
Arjun takes Meera out for long drive where he reveals that he’s booked a private villa to celebrate her birthday. Their destination though sees them treading onto NH 10, where all hell breaks loose, as the couple bear witness to a brutal honour killing. Arjun and Meera somehow manage to flee from the scene of crime, but the subsequent chase leads to more gory disclosures, and blood spilling from all sides.
Honour killing is a blot to our society, but NH 10 shows how deep rooted it is in Haryana. Now some critics would accuse Navdeep Singh of generalising a community or a state. But truth is, that honour killings, caste divide plague the country even today. The director though takes the issue of women oppression too far particularly in the scene where a little boy is laughing at the sight of Meera being battered by his killer father.
While NH 10 is great in substance, but one can’t help but wonder, if only we could see more superlative performance from its actors. Anushka Sharma, who Is also the co-producer, chips in with her most challenging role, and while she’s done an admirable job, you can’t help but wonder that the director could have got more steam out of her. Ditto for unheralded Neil Bhoopalam, who’s undoubtedly played the meatiest role of his career, but doesn’t quite fit the part. The less said about the blood thirsty goons, the better. Darshan Kumar, who was last seen playing Priyanka Chopra’s husband in Mary Kom, does intimidate you with his physique, but the adrenalin fizzles out when he mutters a word.
Can someone explain bow a bunch of killers leave a mentally challenged kin to keep an eye on the two witnesses to the murders? Or the feeble attempts by the goons to trace and catch Meera?
Despite the short length of her role, it is veteran actress Deepti Naval who leaves you stunned with her portrayal of Ammaji, a mother who shows no remorse at losing her own daughter. Well, didn’t she felt none in the 2013 flick Aurangzeb too.
Now despite the not-so-impressive cast, what really works in favour of NH 10 is its gruesome and very real subject, one that keeps rearing its ugly head time to time. Honour Killings, rapes, oppression against women have never gripped our hearts with both fear anger any more than in current times.
NH 10 reminds us how we need to address these menaces. How cinema isn’t just about fairy tales, rom coms, or slam bang action. We live in a real world, where evil live. We can’t shut our eyes and pretends it’s confined to the villages. We just need to wake up and take the evil head on, be it on National Highways or or your doorstep. Go pull the trigger. Be the last woman standing!