Navdeep Singh has impressed audiences and critics with his Anushka Sharma-starrer NH10. However, the thriller is not as brilliant as his debut film, Manoram Six Feet Under. Navdeep seems to have fallen prey to Bollywood stereotypes.
With a tightly-written script and realistic premise, Navdeep did have the raw material for innovative cinema. The director, however, could not resist the temptation of using the usual cliches found in Hindi mainstream cinema: Very filmy 'coincidences', the Kali (Hindu Goddess) imagery et al.
Here, we list five such Bollywood moments that spoil the otherwise gripping thriller that NH10 is.
1. Yes, coincidences do occur in life but they do no always happen at the convenience of the people involved. In fact it is once or twice in a lifetime when people are faced with coincidences that actually help a situation. While trying to escape from Darshan Kumar (the villain), Anushka Sharma approaches the sarpanch (village head) and guess who that is? Who could imagine that the villains are actually from the sarpanch's family? It's like a toned-down version of a 80s film where a girl is running on deserted streets, trying to escape from goons and ends up approaching the cops who are actually friends with the villains. Oh, wait! Even that happens in NH10.
2. Bollywood films have a record of deifying the protagonist to a larger-than-life level. But in the process, the filmmakers forget to keep basic pragmatism in place. In NH10, once Anushka gets into the killer mode, the bad guys simply turn into human bodies waiting for her to strike. They do not even display the lowest level of presence of mind. For example, there is the scene where Anushka is riding a jeep, crushing people to death and there is one man she is aiming for. Now, he could climb around the stairs, get inside a house (the chase takes place in the bylanes of a village) or simply climb atop the vehicle. But he doesn't do any of this; he simply sits in front of a wall, making the perfect setting for a speeding jeep to crush him.
3. There are two Indias in our country: one that lives in abject poverty and struggles to simply survive, where law and order has no place in the scheme of things, and the other that is well-educated, aware and lives a life of affluence. NH10 is the story of a couple belonging to this affluent India who accidentally get stuck in the land of jungle law, a land where female foeticide and honour killings happen. However, what is hard to stomach is the fact that even educated and reasonably sensible people like Meera (Anushka Sharma, who works for a corporate) and Arjun (Neil Bhoopalam) are not aware that such a world and such practices exist.
4. It's a movie that claims realism to be one of its USPs. But seeing the couple kiss when one of them is injured so badly that he could die, does make one wonder if they are actually watching a movie that is not run-of-the-mill Bollywood masala film.
5. And the biggest killer in NH10 that really spoils the whole idea of a thriller that could have set benchmarks for the genre is the sad fact that by the end, Navdeep Singh makes compromises to ensure a sure-shot money-spinner. Clearly Anushka Sharma is the main character in NH10. We have a woman in the lead and she is supposed to be "the hero". The director has used frames and sequences in NH10, especially towards the climax, that make it look like it has been made made just for claps and whistles in the single screen theatres. After Anushka has been on a killing spree, crushing at least three people to death, she has broken Darshan's leg and he can't stand up, she enjoys a smoke and watches (ala Amitabh Bachchan from Hum and Deewar maybe?) him force himself to stand so that she can strike him when he is standing. So much of Bollywood staple mars the freshness of Navdeep's script.
(Interact with Sweta Kaushal at Twitter/@SwetaKaushal)