Cast: Anushka Sharma, Neil Bhoopalam, Darshan Kumaar, Deepti Naval
Direction: Navdeep Singh
NH 10 reeks of confused storytelling. Is it just a road film meant to deliver the thrills? Or is it addressing a larger issue – problems implicit to a patriarchal society where misogyny is a way of life? The director of NH 10 picks up a topic of relevance but fails to contextualize it.
It's about a road trip gone wrong but NH 10 is not just that – what we have here is the fallout of an incident that is steeped in chauvinism. However, the treatment is flippant.
When Arjun (Neil Bhoopalam) meddles in what seems like a case of honour killing, it’s hard to commend him for his spunk. He doesn’t step in to rescue a hapless girl; all he wants to do is avenge his slighted ego. He exhibits the typical North-Indian-guy recklessness and foolhardiness that fails to prompt any empathy.
Arjun’s wife Meera (Anushka Sharma) comes across as the more sensible one and yet in the face of a crisis her reaction seems completely incomprehensible. In an emergency, one of the first things to do is to try and reach out to family and friends. It baffles me that this couple claims to know a top cop but I never see them reach out to him in the hour of need.
The real revelation is Darshan Kumar - as a guy from the Jat heartland, his portrayal is commendable. It is difficult to imagine that the same person who played the endearing supportive husband Onler Kom (in Mary Kom, 2014) can also play a ruthless chauvinist in NH 10.
Navdeep Singh exposes the inherent sexism of the Jatland; you squirm in your seat as you watch how brutally and unflinching a family is ready to kill for ‘honour’; you get a glimpse into how young boys see their mothers being subject to oppression from childhood and how that becomes intrinsic to their being, you also see how integral women are in perpetuating this puritan mindset. And yet, somehow the issues seem superficial, incapable of evoking genuine sympathy and concern.
The last scene in which Meera sits and smokes a cigarette before her final strike just seems too pretentious – as if Anushka Sharma is crying out – look how cool I am. When you have gone through the kind of ordeal that she had, I would think the first thing on her mind would be head to safety or at least, look for a quick closure. Prolonging it just doesn’t seem to work.
Watching NH 10, given the complexity of the story and the way it played out, seems an exercise in futility. The film makes for a frustrating watch, more so because it is such a squandered opportunity.
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