So i watched NH10 at the 2:50 show at PVR Phoenix mills yesterday. The hall was almost 60% full. I was extremely excited about Navdeep Singh’s second directorial venture after Manorama Six Feet Under, so i armed myself with a large popcorn and coke, i munched my way through the national anthem and the anti tobacco campaign waiting with impatience and anticipation for the movie to begin.
A RED CENSOR CERTIFICATE set up the mood for what was to come.
Before everyone is up in arms about similarities with Eden Lake, the plot line is applied to a completely different context and therefore doesn’t account as plagiarism because artists are allowed to steal because “its not about where things are taken from, but where things are taken to” (Jim Jarmusch said it so you can take it up with him), From utopia to dystopia, Navdeep takes us for a creepy drive through Haryana, the experience of which we are unlikely to forget for a long time to come. All the moments are familiar yet original and the result is a stylish, contemporary and brilliant piece of storytelling.
Navdeep creates a mature modern Indian heroine that one can relate with and look up to.
Anushka’s look is fresh, dewy, her face does not look ducky and she has taken this role by the balls and performed the hell out of it. I have never been an Anushka fan per say, initially, put off by all her bubbly cockiness.
But i am a true blue convert now because she makes the rest of the lot of the leading ladies look childish, glossy and superfluous. With one bold stroke she has knocked Kangana down to number two in the list of brilliant mainstream female actors.
Anushka’s portrayal of Meera was so nuanced and balanced, and her descent into darkness was so effortless and easy that it is truly laudable. She was vulnerable yet steely, sensitive yet power packed. She is a heroine you are rooting for from the word GO. In comparison, her husband’s character makes me want to whack him a few times for being so silly and immature. I hated the villians, which means there were absolutely effective.
It is fantastic to see a film of this caliber coming from a “male director”. Especially in the wake of all the high brow debates , Navdeep sets an example with this work.
Now the people who are stereotyping and generalizing all Indian men, can shut up. The film entirely dealt with the idea of male gaze and yet there was no male gaze in the showing of the film at any point. There was respect for every character from its creators which is rare to find in a Hindi film.
The starkness of the rural urban divide, and the multiple manifestations of patriarchy are handled in an almost video game kind of manner.
Things get progressively harder and harder for Meera’s avatar, its almost like she takes on a virtual reality in the film, the banal is bizarre and things are just about hanging between real and surreal at all times. The moments are hellishly entertaining and suspenseful with just the right amount of comedy (mama-ji gets left behind!) which truly is a superb achievement in the Hindi film context.
I was not a huge fan of the music, apparently it is a demand of the industry, but one could’ve totally done without it, or maybe something other than what was.
In the end, i was happy that she got to kill those bastards with relish, i am happy she mowed them with her own car and beat them with their own sticks. There was karmic retribution, tragedy, hope, albeit it was bleak and dark but real life is much worse. I was sucked into the zone, and i’m yet to shake it off.
My experience as an average film viewer was truly satisfying, and as a hopeful film maker, it was inspirational. The cast and crew deserve every accolade and more!