I was feeling restless, it was late in the night but sleep seemed thousand miles away from my eyes! I couldn’t believe the cinematic magnificence I witnessed few minutes back. Okay! No more suspense, I am talking about Anushka Sharma starrer “NH-10”. The film captures the attention with the very first scene, keeps you glued throughout and leaves you stunned with the hard hitting climax.
The film is about an upper class couple Meera (Anushka Sharma) and Arjun (Neil Bhoopalam) taking a road trip where everything that can go wrong, goes wrong! ‘NH-10’ begins with a party scene where Meera had to leave the party in between for some urgent work. On her way, she is attacked by street punks; she struggles and with her presence of mind escapes the danger. However this incident leaves a deep scar on her, adding to this when she goes to register the complaint, police gives her moralistic advice that she shouldn’t travel alone! To celebrate Meera’s birthday the couple heads for a road trip, and then they take a wrong turn on the highway from where all the trouble begins. They take a halt at a dhabha where a petrified girl pleads for help which Meera ignores and then they see the same girl with her husband being dragged savagely by few goons to a SUV. Arjun comes forward to help them but one of the goons named Satbir (Darshan Kumar) slaps him hard and warns him to stay away by saying that she is her sister.
Arjun makes this as his prestige issue and in spite of continuous pleading and arguments with Meera he drives after them. On a deserted area near the National highway, the couple witnesses a brutal honour killing of the same girl and her husband. Before they could escape the horror, both of them are caught by the goons. They knew they would be killed so Meera tries her luck and tries to get back her gun from chottey (Ravi Beniwal) and in all this chaos Arjun kills chottey who is mentally unstable and relative of one of the goons. From here, starts the race of survival for the couple in the lawless land. They run, run and run but not as fast as the goons because of which Arjun gets badly injured, Meera is left with no option but to leave Arjun at a relatively safer place so that she can find out help. The rest of the movie is a see saw of hope and despair experienced by Meera wherein she sees a ray of hope and at the very moment that hope is snatched from her. The film throws light on the horror of the honour killing and how everyone supports the perpetrators directly or indirectly be it police or the community people.
“Aapki Democracy ma Gurgaon ke akahari mall pe khatam ho jati hai” says the police officer who at first appeared to be helpful but was helping the goons.
“…par aapne toh mujhe pinki ka naam hi nahi bataya tha”
On reaching Sarpanch’s place, she explains the entire scenario with the hope of help only to find out that Sarpanch (surprise entry of Deepti Naval) is none other than Pinky’s mom.
“Tune toh hamare private mamle ko public kar diya”
The goons are back, she with her brilliant presence of mind escapes in the same SUV only to return back taking revenge for her husband’s murder.
The film is splendid because of the tight and rewarding screenplay, a realistic, believable and hard hitting story line, mind blowing dialogues and superb acting by the leading lady Anushka Sharma.
The film is much more than fight and flee, it hits out hard against the existent patriarchal structure both in highly urbanized city where a women is questioned on traveling alone in night, and rural context (or semi-rural) there is constant fight of survival where caste and gender decides whether one would live or die ! “NH-10” takes you the land of Khaps, where choice and consent doesn’t exist, there is no law and order just the panchayat who believes in age old and outdated traditions, many girls are murdered in the wombs and others spend their life as commodities and importantly highlights rudimentary mindset of both men and women. There is a scene in the movie where the villain Satbir is beating Meera savagely, the Sarpanch says, “Apni biwi ko bhi lekar aa” as she doubts that she is trying to help Meera.
At the same time, the film tends to break gender stereotypes where in Meera runs all alone on the deserted roads in night seeking for help as against the believe that a woman is safe only when she is with a man, leaves her injured husband, and when the time demands she fights with the goons as well.
There are many interesting and spine chilling sequences in the film – the conversation between Meera and Police officer where he asks about her caste, emphasizes on importance of caste, comments on her marriage, revelation that he is actually supporting the goons and in spur of a moment Meera hits him and runs away. Another scene where she hides on the plateau so that she is not seen by criminals, eventually someone finds out, then she climbs up and with all frustration she abuses and throws stones at them.
Third- she leaves her injured husband beneath the railway bridge, removing watch from his hand and tying on her hand which reflected that this is their race against time which is slowly slipping away however the time is with her because she wants to keep fighting. Fourth- She reaches Sarpanch’s house, she shares the entire story with her who at first couldn’t hear her and then when she repeats, sarpanch has blank expression. Meera tries to figure out and she shrieks in grief when she sees pinky’s photo and her stuff in cartoon. Fifth- The conversation between Meera and pinky’s bhabhi, where determined Meera keeps banging the door so that she can escape and pinky’s bhabhi who has lost all the hopes.
Apart from all these riveting sequences, one of my personal favorites is the scene where after killing all the goons tired and expressionless Meera sits at the platform smoking cigarette and in front of her lies the injured Satbir. This scene has no dialogues but the intensity it creates blows the mind, Satbir is limping but he has this disgust and brutality evident in his eyes, he can’t see a women sitting at a higher platform so he tries to climb up and then Meera kills him exactly the way he killed his sister.
Anushka Sharma plays the role of Meera convincingly, with complete ease and excels like no one else. Neil justifies his character of Meera’s husband, Darshan kumar has relatively less dialogues but he leaves an impact through his eyes and brutal actions and Deepti Naval’s surprise entry as Sarpanch leaves the mark.
Overall it’s a delight for people who love thriller movies with gripping action sequences. But people with weak heart should refrain as this movie is one of the most violent films of current times! I loved the way the film deals with gender issues without glorifying the leading actress or giving theoretical message of gender equality instead it shows the fight of the woman caught in a difficult situation and how she overcomes all the trouble by herself!
Kudoos to the director Navdeep Sharma and the writer Sudip Sharma for the sensible piece of cinema!