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05 December 2023

Bollywood review: Anushka Sharma gives it her all in action drama 'NH10'

A poster of the Bollywood movie 'NH10'. (Supplied)

By Sneha May Francis

Whether it’s discovering their inner worth or fighting for their freedom or chasing away ghastly ghosts, the female brigade in Bollywood appear determined to nudge their male partners out of the spotlight.

And, in keeping with the trend, director Navdeep Singh hands Anushka Sharma a gun, a guy and a car to knock down the baddies on a deserted highway.

His second feature ‘NH10’, while gritty in parts, unfortunately suffers from a contrived script.

Writer Sudip Sharma, who earlier co-wrote a movie titled ‘Superstar’, pens a story that exposes the contrasting worlds. One where a man surprises his woman with a pack of cigarettes and blissfully watches her puff away, and the other where a woman is brutally massacred for following her heart.

While Sharma explores the contrasting psychology of the big city versus the village, he cleverly exposes how women are exploited and threatened in both spheres. The first striking attack in the thick of the night crucially highlights it. Or, when a male colleague casually hints at how ‘women have it easy.’

Both the worlds exist, untouched by the other, and on both sides of a highway. “The constitution changes when you cross over to our side of the NH10,” proudly announces a cop, before dictating how caste is crucial in determining one’s fate.

‘NH-10’ begins as the city lights glitter and gleam while a loving couple indulges in banter as they drive to a party. Their night ends on an unhappy note and a gun is promptly purchased to restore peace and happiness.

In a bid to cheer things up, a quick getaway is planned. Unluckily, their road trip turns dangerous after they accidentally witness a gruesome crime. The couple must then fight through the shrouds of darkness to win their freedom.

Although Navdeep packs in action-drama basics and excels in creating few edge-of-the-seat thrills, he unintentionally ruins much of the suspense with a telling background score. You sense something is amiss even before he unravels it.

The thrilling trailer is also to be blamed. As the gripping tale unfolds, we end up waiting for the most striking moments to materialise.

The music tracks also appear unnecessary and they damage the texture of the narrative. Had Navdeep abandoned the traditional Bollywood technique, ‘NH10’ would have deeply benefitted from it.

The movie further suffers from critical continuity oversights. One moment a car window is smashed and, just seconds later, it is magically fixed.

There is also the dramatic and rather exaggerated end, that’s purposely positioned to win applause.

Editor Jabeen Merchant manages an impressive cut at 120 minutes of screen time. While action masters Armin Sauer and Abdu Salaam Ansari pack some killer punches, cinematographer Arvind Kannabiran frames the gruesome confrontations impressively.

Of the performers, Anushka outshines the rest. She enthrals with an exemplary performance. There are moments, however, when her newly-acquired pout hinders her act, but that is just a minor cosmetic glitch. She brilliantly captures Meera’s pain and anger. The moment when she climbs atop a mountain to fling stones and yell abuses at her enemies is terrific. Or when she laughs hysterically as she drives out, only to breakdown into tears.

Neil Bhoopalam plays the enchanting city boy Arjun who believes he can flash a gun at village boys to nurse his shattered ego. Darshan Kumaar is left to chase and threaten without much opportunity to flex his acting chops.

Navdeep’s less assured hands don’t lend ‘NH10’ the punch it deserves. It’s a good movie but not great.