Cast: Anushka Sharma, Neil Bhoopalam, Darshan Kumaar
Director: Navdeep Singh
Director Navdeep(Manorama Six Feet Under) Singh returns to filmmaking with this pulpy revenge thriller co-produced by and starring lip-spooked Anushka Sharma as the one who gets to do it all.
The title refers to the National Highway 10 that begins in Delhi and passes through Haryana via Bahadurgarh, Rohtak, Hisar, Fatehabad, Sirsa and ends at the Pakistan border of Punjab. Much like ‘Highway’ before it, this road trip goes awry, petering into a violent climax that ends with the heroine as the lone person standing.
Meera (Anushka) and Arjun (Neil Bhoopalam) are at a party when Meera gets called to the office late at night. Since Arjun is in no mood to break away from the fun, Meera goes alone. En-route, there’s an attempted carjacking and Meera is understandably shaken. Arjun is also hit by guilt pangs for letting her go it alone at night so pronto he gets her a gun, and it’s pretty easy ’cos he has some cops in his family tree.
Predictably, thereafter, they set out on a road trip to a destination, a secluded villa, that is meant to be a substitute for the honeymoon they never got around to doing. When they stopover late evening for some eats, they bump into a ‘khap’ atrocity and promptly get involved. At least Arjun with his over-inflated need to make-up for the previous loss-of-face tries to intervene and save the young couple being subjected to family ordained brutality. After a slap on the face, he steps back and they continue their journey. But there’s not much to go further. Needless to say, they bump into the same group a few miles down the road and see the honour killing happen before their eyes. Obviously as eye witnesses they cannot be let off either.
The basic storyline (script credited to Sudip Sharma), not exactly original, is typical of any horror/ thriller where the leads become witness to murder and then get terrorized themselves for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. We’ve seen such ‘Khap’ related stories also before but none as neatly done as this one. It’s a simplistic structure that incorporates all the genre traits to get the requisite effect. But the plotting is a little too implausible to get the audience completely involved or affected for that matter.
Getting the heroine to become the ‘giant’ killer (of sorts) in the end appears opportune and that track actually appears to be tapping into the recent mass sentiment following the outcry over the ‘Nirbhaya’ incident. The sheer brutality of the violence and free-wheeling use of cuss words have novelty and does its bit to shock. But other than that, there’s little involvement here.
Despite their harrowing experience Meera and Arjun don’t garner empathy because their actions appear opportunistic and premeditated. Many a times you wonder why the twosome did not use their gun or their wits judiciously. Frankly if that had happened we wouldn’t have a movie, just a short film. At 118 minutes, the runtime is short enough to be bearable (Editor Jabeen Merchant has probably edited out quite a bit of flab).
There’s a moment in the film when Meera leaves an injured and bleeding Arjun in the middle of nowhere and runs out when the killers are in hot pursuit. It just doesn’t make sense. And there’s another scene where the uncle reminds his killer nephews of Arjun’s location (signifying the death-knell for that character, no doubt). But that’s another blooper of sorts because the killers are shown previously around that area without a clue as to Arjun’s location.
The night-time cinematography is creditable, and the performances are pretty much adequate. Anushka. Neil and Darshan Kumar as the villain dig in well but it’s a feisty Deepti Naval, who makes her all-too-brief cameo a memorable one. In fact her entry point is when the film picks up speed. Otherwise, Navdeep Singh’s film is a mere genre pusher.