Like a cluster of stars in perfect alignment, the brains behind NH10 must be pleasantly surprised that the theatrical release of their film coincides with the Indian media furore over the BBC documentary India’s Daughter.
This was not a calculated effort on their part but their film does however serve the purpose of allowing Indians to continue dialogue about this pressing matter, that being that every three minutes, a woman is attacked in India. NH10 is indeed a disarmingly beautiful example of how film can be a vehicle for necessary social change.
Through the unapologetically liberal lens of Vikas Bahl, Anurag Kashyap and Vikramaditya Motwane, NH10 paints a stark picture of India as a Hitchcockian dystopia where unmitigated patriarchy is the sword rule. The only way out for women is for them to muster the strength to cast off their shackles and internalize the violence that is ruthlessly used against them by men.
When an urban couple (Anushka Sharma and Ryan Phillipe look-alike Neil Bhoopalam) stumble upon and unsuccessfully attempt to stop an honor killing from happening on National Highway 10, they find themselves being pursued by brutal killers.
Thanks to deft direction, this two hour-long pursuit across India’s barren terrains will leave audiences breathless.
Anushka Sharma, fresh off of last year’s Bollywood opus PK, is a revelation here. Her dark transfiguration from chirpy, corporate go-getter to a postmodernist Amazonian, who ultimately finds gore and death passé by the film’s end, is unnerving.
The man controlling the lever on this joyride, director Navdeep Singh, cherry picks elements from films as disparate as Sixties exploitation classic, Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and Alfred Hitchcock’s nihilism and cinematic plot devices (the doppelganger and the Macguffin) to, literally, drive his message home. Even viewers opposed to violent content in the movies will feel compelled to cheer for the hero during the film’s visceral climax.