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‘NH 10’: Highway to nowhere

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MUMBAI: NH 10 is a film that could easily have been in the horror genre. Normally, when a newly married couple would go on a holiday in order to leave behind their hectic city life, they would book into a haveli or jungle lodge. All kinds of eerie things would start happening to them. NH 10 veers from the mould. In this case, the couple tries to make up for their hurried honeymoon by going on a holiday, driving from their home in Gurgaon along National Highway 10, which terminates in Punjab. But most of its length passes through Haryana, the khap land.

Anushka Sharma works for a company in Gurgaon where her presentations are always a hit with the boss. One night she is called in late and on her way back, she is cornered by a pair of bikers backed up by their other goons in a car behind. Anushka somehow manages to get away from the situation but that paves way for her to obtain a gun licence, the top cop being close to her husband, Neil Bhoopalam.

The couple embark on their trip enjoying mild romantic banter and dreaming of things they could do together once there. Since it is celebration time, Neil even gifts Anushka a packet of cigarettes. A dhaba is a must stop place and both decide to refresh at one. Anushka takes time off in the loo for a smoke when a woman approaches her and asks to save her life.

That’s when a commotion attracts Neil’s attention. About half a dozen people are violently beating up a couple, the woman being the same who pleaded with Anushka in the loo. Neil’s good citizen conscious makes him intervene, only to be punched and humiliated by the girl’s brother. She has married outside her ‘gotra’ and that is taboo in this place. Her fate is sealed as is that of her lover.

Neil being a hot-blooded North Indian youth finds being beaten in front of his wife unacceptable. He arms himself with the pistol granted to Anushka for self-protection and decides to follow the guys to avenge the punches. He feels supremely confident of overpowering a bunch of uncouth men and follows them deep into woods where he witnesses them burying the boy and girl alive in a pit. Now he has no clue how and when to flaunt his gun. As a result, he ends up shooting the most innocent, mentally challenged lad who was part of the bunch but had nothing to do with their acts.

Producers: Vikramaditya Motwane, Anurag Kashyap, Vikas Bahl, Anushka Sharma, Sunil Lulla, Karnesh Sharma

Director: Navdeep Singh

Cast: Anushka Sharma, Neil Bhoopalam, Darshan Kumar, Deepti Naval

After this, neither his gun nor his contact with the Delhi top cop are of any use to him. Anushka and Neil are now a hunted couple in a land where every person including the cops identify with the philosophy of the killer bunch. Neil is rendered immobile as a result of a stab wound in his thigh and Anushka is left alone to fend for them both.

In her pursuit to find help as well as save herself from the killers, Anushka goes into the jungle. There is no sign of a state highway, let alone the National Highway 10. She is told by the cops that the real Haryana and khap rule starts where the glitzy malls of Gurgaon end.

Until about 20 minutes before the film ends, Anushka is a cross Haryana runner, stopping only when she finally gets shelter with a village sarpanch, Deepti Naval. Here again, another surprise awaits her. Her husband, Neil, has been killed. As if one of the goons is a clairvoyant, he declares that the injured Neil is lying at the railway underpass and they proceed to deal with him before resuming the chase for Anushka. Neil clears the way for Anushka, whose money rides on this film to seek the ultimate revenge and, hence, it has to be her show from here onwards.

Though there are numerous such films of a woman spurned, from Bride Wore Black, Black Widow to our own Kahaani, NH 10 betters none of them. It moves on totally predictable lines and offers no edge-of-the-seat kind thrills. Though Anushka decides to get even eventually, there is nothing heroic about it. As is the trend among contemporary makers, this film too is shot largely in low light but the use of night vision cameras saves the situation to some extent. 

Since the script is uninspiring and lacks twists and turns, the director is also largely at sea. There is no support from the romance between the lead protagonists. Even music fails to inspire. As for background score, one is too occupied to find some meaning in the film to even notice it. If Anushka was hoping for an award-winning film, well she certainly may be a contender. Neil is fairly good though he has limited scope. Darshan Kumar as the baddie in chief is impressive. Deepti Naval is good in a brief role.

NH 10 is a tedious watch. The film has the advantage of a solo release but the exams period and the ‘A’ certificate will go against it.

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