Anushka’s debut as a producer. Navdeep Singh’s return as director (Manorama). NH10 is sure to make you think twice before reacting to others’ plight on your next road trip, if you weren’t thinking about it already.
Anushka & Neil are the average working Delhi couple. Happily married, well connected and career oriented. On a road trip for a romantic weekend, they cross paths with Darshan Kumar (Mary Kom) who is dragging his eloping sister and her boy friend along with his goons. From there start a series of unfortunate events.
The plot by Navdeep and writer Sudip Sharma is topical and fresh. But the screenplay in the first half is very weak. The first half could have easily been trimmed by 10 odd minutes which is big for a 2 hour film. By the interval you are already dragging yourself to wonder why not just move on.
The film is dark and realistic in creating the emptiness of the highways. The fact very well explained by the line ‘where the construction ends, so does the democracy’.
The film scores in terms of performances. Neil is good as the typical Delhi male, who loses reason due to a hurt ego and in a sense of fake bravado, lands up ruining things completely.
Darshan Kumar exudes a sense of fear naturally. As the Jat local, he has the common boy demeanour but at the same time the cold bloodedness of the chauvinists he represents.
The supporting cast in terms of the local cops or the goons are all in sync with the characters and the setup of the film. No doubt in that, be it the local cops or Deepti Naval as Ammaji.
The film belongs to Anushka & Navdeep. As producer and director, kudos to both of them for making a film which is so topical in today’s times but yet presented in a fearful manner. Although inspired in terms of story by the 2008 British film, Eden Lake, the localization works brilliantly. The cinematography is first rate no doubt, adding flavor to the film’s finesse.
There are production glitches, which should have been avoided, coming from the Phantom brand. For example,
- When Anushka is shown running in search of the police station, she has her eye make up running through her face. She then goes to a water stop and washes her face clean, post which she meets the police. But when she is returning again, the same smudged look appears on her face.
- The entire village doesn’t hear/ nor come to help the people being killed due to them viewing the local nautanki. That comes across as surprising since it would have been very easy for the hunted to summon for help. (avoiding spoilers here.)
Barring that, there are so many things shown beautifully in the film, be it the class divides, the fear of the unknown bystander volunteering to help Anushka or the treatment of the Bihari migrants or outsiders as they are called.
Anushka gets and delivers a striking performance. One that is sure to win her accolades for. No doubt in that. Her characterisation is perfect, which adds on to her transformation in the film. A strong independent working woman, fighting gender inequalities at work and in real life, the avid swimmer showing her strong physical strength and a strong presence of mind which is seen in her first attack in the film too. All these are very well depicted in the second half, where her transformation is complete.
Hats off to Navdeep also, for making a hard hitting, no nonsense film, which shows the true colours of the nation outside the concrete jungles. Hard hitting yes, haunting, very much. Wish they had edited the first half, so the film would have been a fast paced thriller.
Kudos to Phantom, for venturing out and bravely producing such films. India needs them.
All in all, is the film entertaining, NO. Is the film worth watching once, YES. Because you probably will not be able to digest it a second time.
By: Yusuf Poonawala