An idyllic weekend holiday goes horribly wrong for a yuppie Delhi couple, Arjun (Neil Boopalam) and Meera (Anushka Sharma), in the badlands of Haryana.
You so want to cheer NH10, Navdeep Singh’s second film after Manorama Six Feet Under. NH10 is a gutsy, film that aims to be gritty, hard-hitting, gruesome, violent, real and most importantly, extremely relevant to the time we live in. The film, admittedly, is most of all that with one of the strongest roles for a mainstream Hindi film heroine in recent times. Yet, somewhere it fails to work as an engaging, dark, edge-ofthe-seat thriller it so wanted to be. Despite its running time of under 2 hours and some deft editing to keep the narrative flow in high gear, the film stretches its wafer thin plot beyond breaking point.
Taking off from the 2008 Horror-Thriller flick Eden Lake, NH10 ‘adapts’ it pretty well by setting it in the interiors of Haryana against the backdrop of female infanticide, Khap panchayats and honor killings – a far cry from the ‘normal’ world of Arjun and Meera. And it has to be said that the film gets its look, feel and atmosphere spot on. Technically well crafted, the gruesomeness of the honor killing and the use of the locale is brilliant making it an important character in the story. Sadly, it’s the obvious black and white (good urbanites v/s savage villagers) characterizations and weak writing in terms of layering the film that lets down NH10. Beyond a point, the chase sequences seem to relentlessly go on with little else in the plot while the sequences establishing Arjun and Meera as the hip young urban couple of today are among the weakest of the film and make it difficult for one to get into their story. Consequently, you are unable to empathize with them when the shit truly hits the ceiling. One also questions what is it the film really trying to say. Should one not get involved with somebody else’s private business and take a stand even if it is unjust and wrong? Or is it enough to just take a token stand and leave it at that? Even as you ponder with this and that, there are logical loopholes you begin to ask yourself about such as the only gun in the film being the one with Arjun and Meera. Really?
The film does benefit from a strong central act from Anushka Sharma in a physically demanding role. It is to her credit she makes you notice her performance in spite of those lips. She gives it her all, nails the role and its graph, and is believable enough throughout the film even in the final climax, which otherwise seems out of place from rest of the film. Neil Booplalam is so-so and comes across as more foolhardy rather then someone meaning well in the situation. Deepti Naval all but steals the film in a chilling cameo that highlights how often women are the worst enemies of women. Darshan Kumaar makes a strong impact and the rest of the characters are well cast and seem to belong.
Technically, a mention must be made of Arvind Kannabiran’s evocative camerawork, Jabeen Merchant’s skillful editing and the moody background score even if the overall sound design is obvious and er… relentless.
All in all, NH10 is watchable fare no doubt but unfortunately, it ends up as a film that stops short of being there.
Hindi, Action, Thriller, Color