It is rare that one gets to see a woman driving a car in a chase scene in Bollywood. It is rarer to see one smoking on screen. Rarer still is the sight of a woman murdering the evil villain. When you combine all three together, you know you have a movie on your hands that is sure to shatter all sorts of stereotypes.
Neil Bhoopalam and Anushka Sharma play husband and wife Arjun and Meera, a quintessential yuppie couple that hails from the land of shiny apartment buildings, malls and corporate offices. Yet all it takes is one double murder for their lives to transform from a carefully constructed and sanitised bubble to utter and complete anarchy. It is this transition that forms the key story line of the movie.
The story is full of blood and gore, there should be no expectations to the contrary. But NH10 is not your typical mindless slasher film. In barely an hour and fifteen minutes of screen time, you get an insight into a side of India that the typical glitzy Bollywood fare hesitates to show its viewers.
There are definitely some glaring lapses in the script, bordering on ridiculousness at some points. But as you keep watching, the action sequences take over and you can think of nothing else.
What is truly refreshing about NH10 is its portrayal of its female characters. Anushka Sharma has played the most convincing role in her as-yet-fledgling career, demonstrating that all she needs to prove her mettle as an actress is one good film. Her transformation from the contemporary Indian woman to the emotionally scarred wife and then to the gritty woman with revenge on her mind even as she wields iron rods keeps you rooting for her throughout.
Sharma is ably supported by Neil Bhoopalam, as her husband Arjun and Darshan Kumar as Satbir, the brother out to regain his ‘honor’ by killing his sister. Deepti Naval makes a cameo as the village matriarch and packs a powerful punch in the brief screen time allotted to her.
This portrayal in itself is a breath of fresh air in an industry which prefers, nay requires, its leading ladies to be little more than plastic dolls both on and off screen. Against this background, Anushka has put her name, reputation and even her bank account on the line for a film that few would have dared touch. She has a total of five wardrobe changes throughout the movie. Her hair appears disheveled, her make-up smudged. When was the last time you saw that happen to the lead female character of a Bollywood movie?
The result is a dark film which offers no relief in the form of item numbers or scantily clad heroines dancing in bars and clubs, and still manages to retain its touch on reality without coming across as filmi and melodramatic. The music blends perfectly into the narrative, while still remaining melodious. If anyone ever needed proof that Anushka Sharma does not hesitate to break boundaries and defy conventions, this is it.