It’s not often that you see a Bollywood film that captures a relationship between a loved-up couple realistically. In most cases, the impeccably-dressed woman is gratingly chirpy and the man is prone to making grand declarations of love while breaking out into a song or two. But NH10 doesn’t bow to that time-tested tradition of showcasing love and conflict. Meera (Sharma) and Arjun (Neil Bhoopalam), city-slick couple from Gurgaon near India’s capital with successful careers to boot, speak in a language that most modern couples will understand. They are fuss-free and their private moments don’t seem contrived or manufactured.
Perhaps, that’s what made NH10 a winner from the word go. You buy into their intimacy and therefore when they embark on a weekend getaway together, you are rooting for them to have a good time. But on their way to a private villa away from the city, they get embroiled with a bunch of violent thugs on the highway. In matter of minutes, their idyllic road trip takes a nightmarish turn.
From then on, they are hurtled down a road of destruction and an intense fight for survival begins. Sharma excels in the role of a battered woman plopped in scary situations and Bhoopalam does a fair job of playing a husband who makes a few bad judgment calls. His impulsiveness to take on those barbaric men may seem out of character, but somehow director Singh sells it convincingly to the viewers as the story trots along.
NH10 is dark and gritty. It doesn’t hesitate to glorify a human’s penchant for primitiveness either. Employing a show-don’t-tell technique of storytelling, the film exemplifies the divide between Indian cities on the cusp of the development boom and the villages around it. As a corrupt cop puts it: “These villages don’t have electricity or water, what makes you think that constitutional rights have found it way into this place.”
What’s also refreshing is that it’s not just the men who are crucified for their regressive approach in this one. Actress Deepthi Naval as a feisty matriarch with her parochial attitude is a treat to watch.
NH10 is entertaining and creepy for most parts. It’s an example for perfect casting too. Darshan Kumar as the rod-toting brute, Sharma as the vulnerable woman teetering on the edge of sanity and Bhoopalam as her sensitive partner fits right in. It’s also devoid of melodrama, making NH10 an enjoyable ride.
Cast: Anukshka Sharma, Neil Bhoopalam, Darshan Kumar and Deepthi Naval
Director: Navedeep Singh
Stars: 3.5 out of 5