NH10, a movie I saw in the hall with all sorts of people. Feminists, commentators, people on boring dates, comedians, time passers and professional movie critics. All for a hundred rupees. And the best movie time experience I ever had.
The fun and turning around in my seat was derived mostly from the endless comments of a group of students going to Goa the next week and not as much the movie.
NH10, a thriller/slasher movie made with the attempt to bring an overlooked genre to the mainstream that ultimately failed.
For Heaven’s Sake, if I wanted to see a three minute shot of Anushka Sharma’s breast juggling with bad music in the background, I would have stayed at home with a laptop. It does obviously have many other scenes but this one is sadly etched in memory and signifies everything wrong in this movie. Bad cinematography, aimless direction and bad editing. Even with a good script, it suffered due to its poor execution. The ideas and emotionality of the script were ultimately overlooked and side-tracked.
The movie starts out with an overhead talk between Meera(Anushka Sharma) and Arjun(Neil Bhoopalan), with the camera showing us various parts of Gurgaon, a lot like “Midnight In Paris”, though lacklustre. The magic or awe the movie tried to invoke was lost by the aimless direction.
The shots were vague, a bridge, huge concrete monstrosities, thelas (roadside stands). The fact that the voiceover could barely be heard is not in the movie’s favour.
The movie started out weak. Very weak.
The montage/narrative ends when Meera and Arjun reach the party they were headed to.
As they get into the groove and Meera chats with a friend, Meera has to leave ahead of a product launch of her company. On her way to the office, she is involved in a car accident. While she doesn’t show it, she is mentally affected and on Arjun’s suggestion.
The next day, Arjun and Meera go to file a police complaint. The police unsympathetically tell her that she should not be travelling alone at night, because Gurgaon “Badhta bacha hai” (Gurgaon is a growing child).
This is the primary theme of the film. The plight of Indian women. Not gaining support or sympathy even when they are the one’s victimised. Survival, revenge, hate are all secondary when the movie is looked as a whole.
After the trip to the police station, Arjun surprises Meera with a trip for their anniversary, for all the things they “missed on their honeymoon”.
Taking a short break at a dhabba (Roadside restaurant) during their trip, they witness a group of men beating and dragging a couple. A case of honour killing. The bane prevalent in India due to the perennial caste system.
Trying to calm the situation down and make some sense of the whole kerfuffle, Arjun interrupts and in the process gets himself slapped, hurting his ego.
Neil Bhoopalan does a terrific job of portraying the man with the wounded ego. A character so common yet he shimmers in the little screen time he gets.
Resuming their trip, Arjun spots the car which took the couple away. In a bid to settle his ego, he takes it upon himself to teach the villagers a lesson. He parks the car close to their in nowhere and sets out with the gun.
What befuddles me though is why Arjun, a man who I’m hoping is smart enough to know the danger associated with these man not to let a bruised ego slide by?
When Arjun reaches there, he is horrified at what he sees. The girl is poisoned and the man is being brutally beaten. The scene was as Brutual and horrifying as humanly possible to show the audiences the cruelty prevalent in India.
As he realises his mistake and hears Meera’s screams, he runs towards her, wanting to make an escape but are caught off guard and one of the men hits him with a rod. The negotiations do not bode well, due to Arjun’s hotshot nature. With Arjun and Meera being witnesses to the couple’s murder, the men hatch a plan. Kill Arjun, give Meera to one of the men as a slave and sell their car.
Again, this scene stands out as a glaring statement into the Indian mentality regarding woman. A lot of the movie revolves around woman, thought of as useless and weak rising to the occasion or the ones calling the shots, and surprising or ordering the men.
Fearing for their lives, Arjun, gun in hand and Meera make a hasty escape. The only setback being Chotu, the younger mentally handicapped brother of one of the men being shot in the process.
Enraged, the men chase Meera and Arjun all throughout NH10, the highway from Delhi to Fazika, Punjab, near the Indo-Pak border.
The story then sets to motion, changing from a chase movie to a tale of revenge, hatred, sanity and loss.
And it all works due to the virtue of strength of its characters, their tragedies and their choices and the tension and verbal chemistry between all these characters. It’s a focused work on one woman, Meera’s life changing event and her travails of one night.
Despite the weak technical department of the movie, the acting stays top notch. Meera is portrayed by Anushka Sharma in a career defining performance. Varied, subtle and full of life.
NH10 though had a compelling soundtrack, full of the techno and sharp noises also found in “Eden Lake” and “Gone Girl”. It also though, had traditional Bollywood songs i.e. lyrical songs. The songs were not bad, but their placement was awful.
NH10 is a movie that had a strong foundation but failed to deliver. It is a movie that should have demanded multiple viewing but does not.
Sadly, even with such powerful performances and script, the movie fails to capitalise on the premise.