NH 10: This one transcends the genre
Phantom Films is slowly and steadily becoming synonymous with quality cinema. Known for its low budget, high on content movies, this production house started by Anurag Kashyap, director Vikramaditya Motwane, producer Madhu Mantena and the former head of UTV Spotboy Vikas Bahl. With out of the box thinking at creative and business levels, Phantom is proving to be a revolutionary production house in the industry. With quality content, correct budgeting, clever production and strategic business ties-ups, Phantom is paving way for collaborations previously unheard of. Be it Balaji Films, Viacom 18, Dharma Productions, Eros or now Reliance Entertainment, the brains behind Phantom is proving their business acumen along with their creative genius.
As an observer and audience, I welcome their moves and motives. I see it as Ram Gopal Verma’s prodigies taking his mission into Phase 2. This is starting of 2nd exciting era in Indian Cinema and I am excitingly looking forward.
NH10 is of Road Thriller Movie genre which is common in Hollywood and other part of the world but seldom tried in Bollywood. We will have to date back to 2002 to locate a movie in similar genre and it is from RGV itself. It was the movie named “Road”. (Ramu was first in so many genres that he actually got the name of the genres as movie titles. Something similar to first generation of Internet users getting the privilege of having their own name as email ids without any adjustments).
NH10 is again a story about a road trip gone unimaginably wrong. It has a thriller/slasher movie flavor with horror movie feel. But what makes it different is the writing and direction. Written by Sudip Sharma, NH 10 is a story of hot shot Ad Woman Meera (Anushka Sharma) and her boyfriend Arjun (Neil Bhoopalam). They are like any other urban couple wanting to have good time together. They plan to go out on a road trip together for Meera’s Birthday. While they seem to be living their dream, the happenings soon turn into a nightmare. Why and how, you can watch in the theaters and of-course know what happens after that too.
Writing is spot on ans screenplay is tight. Dialogues are used only where required and are good. Characterization is detailed and convincing though I did not understand why there was a need to highlight Meera as a smoker as that fact does not add anything to the character or the story. We can say almost 60-70% of the movie is without visual. Rather it is a movie about its ambiance. The Director and his team must have taken pain staking effort build up the ambiance they wanted their audience to be immersed in. Director Navdeep Singh who has the acclaimed “Manorama Six Feet Under” to his credit, proves that he is master in creating suspense, thriller and horror. His skills are proven and his craft is spot on.
The credit solely goes to the director that the movie not only showcases the chauvinism of males in the socially backward areas in the country, but also makes a scathing statement about it. And this is all without even talking about it (barring the blabber by the Police Inspector who takes Meera in his jeep, as it was required so that Meera gets alerted at that time). Be it at the product launch presentation about sanitary napkins or vulnerability of Meera due to Ego of her boyfriend, the lecture by the above mentioned Police Inspector, or the laughter of the little boy when his mother is beaten by her mother-in-law, the film silently makes an observation or a statement on male chauvinism in both rural an urban settings in India. Similarly, it also showcases how we avoid helping other people in trouble but on the contrary expect them to help us while we are in trouble (compare the scene in washroom when the victim girl asks Meera for help and cut to the scene when she asks help from a labor family to let her hide in their hut). Such subtexts make this film transcend the thriller/slasher genre it is based on.
Apart from the brilliance in layering, Navdeep also demonstrates genius in using point of views. Be it in audio POV (the scene when a train passes by while Meera and Arjun are trying to hide below the railway bridge or the scene where Meera narrates her problem but Ammaji/Mother-in-Law (Deepti Naval) can not listen due to lack of hearing aid machine) or in visual POV (the scene when Ammaji is hitting Meera and her head movies seeing at the boy standing on the well, a situation which she immediately uses for her rescue), Navdeep makes outstanding use of POVs.
Due to such attention to detail by the Director, every other department shines. The editing is smooth and easy flowing when required, crisp and sharp where required, Jabeen Merchant did a great job at that. Cinematography by Arvind Kannabiran is praiseworthy as most of the shooting is in low light. Sound Design by Subhash Sahu is by far one of the best of this year. Music by Karan Gour is excellent but background music is worth a special mention. “Chhil Gaye Naina” and “Mati ka Palang” are good songs. Production Design by Mustafa Stationwala is spot on. Though there are very less costume changes, I did notice the ones Meera wears in starting 30 mins of the movie. They show her class and style aptly. Action by Abdul Salaam Ansari and Armin Sauer is spine chilling.
Casting by Jogi is very good, however Neil Bhoopalam seems to be deliberately caste to make Anushka shine as a protagonist or rather the hero of the film. He is good but it is just limited to that. Anushka Sharma carries the film on her shoulder and getting on board as a producer she proves to be an intelligent business women like her character. However, as the movie fails to elevate to higher emotional levels in second half and remains in a steady and predictable path, she does not get much chance to show variety in later half. Still, she has done an excellent job.
Other actor which leaves an impact are Dharshan Kummar whom we have seen recently in Mary Kom. Same is with Dipti Naval who impresses in her small role as Ammajji. Everyone else did good job in their designated roles.
To sum it up, NH10 is an edge of the seat thriller which keeps you hooked from start to end and also makes un-comforting observations and statements about male chauvinism in India. Initial business will be slow and mostly from metros and multiplexes only but if the word of mouth picks up, it can help this film earn a lot of profit as the production cost is minimum.
Recommendation : If you like to watch spine chilling thriller/slasher/horror kind of films with raw and brutal violence, this is definitely a perfect film for you. If you are OK with any kind of good film, then also this is good watch. But if you are the ones who prefers to stay away (like me) from such horrible reality and frightening movies, then it can be avoided, though not for the flaws in the film. In short, a good movie to watch for those who can watch such movies.