NH10 (2015) *HQ*

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Meera (Anushka Sharma) and Arjun (Neil Bhoopalam) are professionals living in Gurgaon. When Meera walks out of a party late one night, she gets attacked by a group of unknown men. Although she escapes through the skin of her teeth, it leaves her traumatised. Arjun, partly blaming himself for not being there that night, tries to make up for it by treating her to a luxurious desert holiday.

As they stop on a Highway dhaba for dinner, they witness a young girl being picked up by a bunch of hoodlums. Arjun chooses to step in, unmindful of the danger ahead, they become embroiled in a case of honor killing in front of their own eyes. Their ugly run-in with the killers headed by Satbir (Darshan Kumaar) takes a nasty turn, the conspiring policemen are of no help, Arjun gets seriously injured and Meera has to slug it out on her own through extremely tough circumstances.

Navdeep Singh’s NH10 is a highly relevant film in these times of a necessary need for women empowerment. It strikes like a bullet and the stinging odor of revenge stays with you for long, even after the film gets over. At the same time, the excessive detailing of the violence doesn’t make it an easy watch.

Anushka Sharma packs in an incredibly strong performance laced with intense vulnerability. Her character graph shows a natural progression stemming from uncertainty, fear, inherent intelligence and how she gets forced into pumping steel-in-her-veins. The physical conditioning through the rough terrain must have been very difficult. When she hysterically screams ‘F**k You’ to the killers, you can feel her cumulative agony.Anushka Sharma lights up a cigarette at a critical juncture before going for the kill. That one moment does a lot for a woman breaking the shackles of a warped male dominated mindset in the heartland of India. Neil Bhopaalam, as the supportive husband with an immature streak delivers a solid performance. Darshan Kumaar is a totally violent contrast to the calm-n-collected husband of MARY KOM. He’s a pleasant revelation. Deepti Naval shines in a cameo. Her dramatic shift from empathy to antipathy is electrifying.

Director Navdeep Singh is at the top of his game. After many years in the wilderness post the critically acclaimed MANORAMA SIX FEET UNDER and a failed production plan with Abhay Deol, Singh retains his sanity and doesn’t compromise on his or writer Sudip Sharma’s vision. But, in spite of a water tight plot, one can question Arjun’s motivation to go after rogue killers even though he’s with a lady in tow. Was he that naive? Also, the climax seems somewhat rushed and way too sudden.

On the whole, NH10 is a wonderfully made film with an outstanding performance by Anushka Sharma. It will be well appreciatedby an intelligent audience that’s gunning for women safety and empowerment. The sound cinematic credentials and gripping narrative is the high point of the film. But, as mentioned earlier, the glorification of violence isn’t easy to stomach. You need to be really motivated to absorb it. This National Highway has its shares of potholes, but, it is a must visit. Do go the NH10 way!

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