I would not have watched NH10 if it hadn’t been made by Navdeep Singh, one of the most erudite people I know. The buzz was that it was on the lines of Eden Lake, a film I found highly disturbing and wish I hadn’t watched – disturbing scenes and imagery forge themselves a permanent place in my head. And when I saw the trailer my first reaction was Oh gawd no, I don’t want to watch this. My blood boils anyway when I hear about monsters who kill their own sisters and daughters in the name of honour, and i didn’t want to have to endure watching it happen. It’s one thing to watch horrible stuff that happens in fantasy worlds or distant lands, but when it’s close to home, it’s very very difficult for me to sit through. (I actually averted my eyes.)
But i’m very very happy with the ending of NH10. It was for me a sort of cinematic catharsis. Fantasy revenge. Rightful payoff. I can’t remember the last time i had such a visceral reaction to a film. I almost clapped really hard when the pieceofshite manusmriti-worshipping cop got his comeuppance. And towards the end, I felt like yelling “Maaro! Maaro saalo ko!!! Taange tod de!!!”
One can tell how good the writing and directing is from several small details in the film. The way Satbir says bhaen hai meri, as if that means it should be enough of an explanation, she’s my property and I can do whatever I want with her, and therefore you can eff off. (Very good work by Darshan – the complete opposite of his role in Mary Kom). Misplaced machoism: mama saying “Ye hui na mardo wali baat”. “Uske teen bete hain. Kaun dega use apni beti? Waise bhi ladkiya yahan kam hain.” “Hum toh baahar waale hain”
I don’t really care much for the comparisons with Eden Lake. A couple of story points are similar but that’s about it. The way everything has been detailed and rooted, NH10 is as similar to Eden Lake as say, Captain America is to Spiderman.
Writing, directing and editing have all come together to create a superb level of tension throughout the film. The non-professional editor in me spotted an axis jump in the dhaba scene, but apart from that, the editing was completely unnoticeable and fluid. Chase scenes especially can be a pain if not detailed and executed properly.
I’m a big fan of films like PK, which address genuine issues within the commercial film format. It’s not easy to walk that tightrope. Within the conventions of a thriller, NH10 grabs us by the collar and shows us how women are treated as their father’s or husband’s property in parts of the country, to the extent that they’re sometimes killed because of some perverted, depraved notions of “honour” and machismo. It’s not an easy watch, but I’m glad that someone was angry enough to make a film like this, and did a damn good job! Navdeep Singh, my respect for you has grown even further.
(Kenny Basumatary is the director of Local Kung Fu. He has a best seller novel called Chocolate, Guitar, Momos. He practices martial arts ‘gently’ with anyone and everyone and watches movies at a violent pace)