As the promos suggest, NH 10 completely belongs to Anushka Sharma, an actress ((also the Co-Producer) with oodles of talent and most importantly, brains to sign a film like NH 10 produced by Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane and Vikas Bahl, the ‘three musketeers’ of Phantom Films.
Director Navdeep Singh, after his first outing, ‘Manorama – Six feet under’ (A desi version of Polansky’s classic Chinatown), sets his story amid the rural areas of Haryana, where ‘democracy’ ends at the last mall of Gurgaon, as a character in the film would like to put it. The truth takes a while to sink in, actually more than twenty-odd yawn-inducing minutes of the film’s first half.
The ‘Husband asking his wife about her smoking and later gifting her a cigarette as birthday gift’, the office presentations and gender issues in office, ‘Happy Journey’ signboard and ‘Objects are nearer to you than they appear’ kind of telltale signs of danger lurking behind the well-paved roads makes you wish the director just gets to the point – as Imtiaz Ali did in ‘Highway’ without much building up. Well, thankfully, our heroine neither fall for the criminal nor enjoys her unplanned ‘adventure’.
But once there, you just cannot take your eyes off the screen. With a gripping screenplay, Navdeep Singh ensures that you embark upon this bumpy ride sans the seatbelt. As an audience, you find yourself right there in the middle of the action, swearing under your breath at the stupid ‘hero’ Arjun (Played to perfection by Neil Bhoopalam).
As a matter of fact, I could clearly hear a girl in the audience abusing him while watching what transpired on screen. This, perhaps is the best compliment Neil Bhoopalam can ever garner as an actor. He makes his character so believable that you abhor him for a moment and few minutes later, begin to root for him.
Anushka Sharma plays Meera, an urban working woman caught in a quagmire of unforeseen circumstances that reveal deep, dark secrets of our country, where honour is secured through killings. What begins as a couple’s getaway ends up as a battle for survival and much beyond it. The cat-and-mouse game in the second half is thoughtfully punctuated with the way ‘outsiders’ like Bihaaris are treated, albeit in a subtle manner.
Darshan Kumaar as Satbir, proves that he’s here to stay, and is much more than ‘that actor who played supportive husband of Priyanka Chopra in Mary Com’. Deepti Naval, too, breaks few stereotypes she’s been associated with, which is something I’d better leave you to find out. The film is an out-and-out thriller all the way, but unfortunately ends on an underwhelming note.
One surely cannot expect a bhaashan-baazi in the end, but one feels the director could have taken it to another level. Perhaps Navdeep Singh, with his high-octane screenplay compels you to expect too much before the end credits roll, rather than treading the Khoon-Bhari-Maang-ish route. You wonder why nobody is awake when one of the characters is on a killing spree.
The director explains that there’s some Savitri-Satyavaan thing going on as Gantantra Divas program, and hence the audience is asked to assume that the gaanv-waalas are either watching the play or sleeping (the Bihaari’s calendar shows it’s March 2014 and few scenes later the play’s stage has a banner of 26th January 2014).
Having said that, NH 10 is surely one of the best thrillers we’ve seen in Hindi films. The disclaimer ‘Smoking Kills’ was never so apt in a film before. Go figure!