Movie Review : NH10 (2015)

NH10 (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Rating : Good (4/5)

Genre : Thriller
Year : 2015
Running time : 1 hours 54 minutes
Director : Navdeep Singh
Cast : Anushka Sharma, Neil Bhoopalam, Deepti Naval, Darshan Kumaar
Kidwise Rating: A

NH10 is National Highway 10, which runs from Delhi, through Haryana and into Punjab. And the film is so named because the protagonists are using it to get to their vacation retreat, when they take an unexpected detour. This is a not a “road film”, though.

Arjun (Bhopalam) and Meera (Sharma) are a young couple, living and working in Gurgaon. To get her mind off a recent incident, Arjun arranges a vacation getaway on the occasion of Meera’s birthday. They are traveling on NH10 and stop for a bite at a roadside dhaba. Here they witness the abduction of another couple, and Arjun steps in to intercede . . .

NH10, simply put, is about two urban yuppies caught up in a roadside crime. The plot rings true because it happens in the state of Haryana, made famous for its honor-killing Khaps and the low ratio of females-to-males (a character actually alludes to this in the film “there is a dearth of women here, anyway”). Besides which, if you are a woman and have lived or travelled in Delhi’s NCR region (or in India) it is not much of a stretch to put yourself in Meera’s shoes, driving along by yourself on a relatively quiet road with passing motorcyclists leering in suggestively through the windows. Such is the ground reality. Such are the men.

I was on tenterhooks for most of NH10; it is tension-filled and suspenseful. You know from the trailer that something bad will happen, and you sit on the edge of your seat, waiting for it and dreading it at the same time. The build-up is superb, and the first half of the film is steeped in atmosphere and some very well executed cat-and-mouse chases.

Just as in “Manorama 6 feet under” director Navdeep Singh creates his settings and characters with skill. Meera and Arjun drive on dusty roads, and there are men in little groups stretched out on string cots, or a curious child staring from his perch on a low wall. This is such a familiar street-side scenario in India – there are always men around, lounging, leering. The protagonists are easy to relate to, because they are regular city folk. You like them; you are vested in their well-being, rooting for them in this nightmarish situation.

Anushka and Neil do a very good job as the young, in-love, husband and wife. Meera’s character is sketched out pretty well, a young woman reflecting on the standard reply given to women, who are victims of crime – “Such things will happen. Why go out alone?” The bad guys are believable too – scruffy looking young men roaring about in a large, dusty SUV. Darshan Kumaar (whom we saw in Mary Kom) fits the role of Haryanvi hothead Satbir. Ravi Jhankal, another great actor, plays Mama Fauji, who eggs on Satbir and his friends.

NH10 is very violent and gets pretty gory. There are some scenes which depict brutality towards women also. The film has an A certificate from the Indian Censor Board and rightly so. However, even after the A certificate, NH10 was stalled for release because the censors wanted the violence toned down. I will say that some scenes were hard to watch, but I’m against the “toning down”. This reflects ground reality and must be shown raw and unedited, because, and I quote here from a NDTV discussion on the Nirbhaya case, “How will we know Red Riding Hood’s plight unless we understand how big and bad the wolf really was?” The reality is far more unpalatable than any film ever could be.

NH10 is a must watch. Highly recommended.

Kidwise: Owing to the violence, this is unsuitable for children.

Posted in 2015, bollywood, directors, rating-A, rating-R, recommended, social issues, suspense, thriller, women | Leave a comment

Movie Preview : Dozakh – In Search of Heaven (20th March 2015)

This small budget movie about religion and religious tolerance comes via a newbie director. It stars the fantastic Lalit Tiwari, whom you might remember from Shyam Benegal’s Hari-bhari. I hope this film releases in the US and does well, because it is like a little blip of hope among the upcoming mindless-masala films.

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Movie Review : Ugly (2014)

Ugly Hindi DVD Boxed and Sealed (English Subtitles)Rating : Good (4/5)
Genre : Thriller
Year : 2014
Running time : 2 hours 8 minutes
Director : Anurag Kashyap
Cast : Ronit Roy, Tejaswini Kolhapure, Surveen Chawla, Rahul Bhat, Vineet Singh, Girish Kulkarni
Kidwise Rating: A

Ugly is said to be based on true events and is centered around the disappearance of a 10 year old girl. In the film, the girl, Kali, is the daughter of aspiring actor Rahul Varshney (Bhat), and Shalini Bose (Kolhapure), who are now divorced. So she lives with her police inspector step-father Shoumik Bose (Roy). Kali’s disappearance causes her mother great distress. Her father is frantic, and her step-father, to whom the case comes, is steely in his resolve to find her.

Ugly is a typical Anurag Kashyap film. It doesn’t feature big-name actors (Ronit Roy is the best known here), but it is well-directed, strong on story and character development. Kali’s disappearance occurs early-on in the film. From then on, it is a story of suspicion and the real-time vagaries of finding a missing person in Mumbai. Ugly also shines a light on systemic apathy and corruption endemic in the governmental bureaucracy.

Ugly’s characters bring to mind a nest of snakes. Each one, although affected by Kali’s disappearance, seems to have ulterior motives. There are her parents – Shalini and Rahul who’ve not been able to make their marriage work despite being college sweethearts. There is Shoumik, a hard, controlling man, who has a long-standing enmity with Rahul. Rahul’s good friend Chaitanya owes people money. Shalini’s dead-beat, perpetually-broke brother pings her for a loan to keep himself afloat. And there are others …

A lot of the credit for this film goes to the fantastic cast of characters. Ronit Roy does very well as Police Inspector Shoumik Bose. But then, he seems to carry off these hard, unsmiling, unforgiving characters off so well; his character in Udaan was almost a reprise of this one. We haven’t see much of Tejaswini Kolhapure commercially, although she has appeared in several indie-type shorts. She was also in Kashyap’s film Paanch, which never saw the light of day. Similarly, you might not have heard of Vineet Singh, although you might have seen this accomplished actor in Murabba, a lovely short story from Bombay Talkies.

Ugly is a spare, fast-paced, tightly-made drama. No naach-gana, no frivolous fripperies. Highly recommended. There is also a short prolog to Ugly, called “Kali-Katha”, available on Youtube.

Kidwise: Lots of profanity. Some violence, some sexual situations and adult humor. Unsuitable for children.

Posted in 2014, bollywood, crime, directors, drama, mystery, rating-A, rating-R, thriller | Leave a comment

Movie Preview : NH10 (releases 13th March 2015)

Watching this trailer makes my hair stand on end. And that’s not the chief reason I want to watch NH10 – it’s director Navdeep Singh, who in 2007, gave us the exceptional “Manorama 6 feet Under”. This film stars Anushka Sharma and Neil Bhoopalam, whom we have seen earlier in Shaitan and “No One Killed Jessica”.

Posted in 2015, bollywood, crime, directors, drama, Previews, thriller | Leave a comment

Movie Review : Badlapur (2015)

Rating : Good (3.8/5)
Genre : Thriller
Year : 2015
Running time : 2 hours 14 minutes
Director : Sriram Raghavan
Cast : Varun Dhawan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Kumud Mishra, Vinay Pathak, Yami Gautam, Huma Qureshi, Radhika Apte, Divya Dutta

Badlapur Hindi Audio CD(Bollywood/Film/Songs)

In Badlapur, Dhawan plays Raghav, a man with a small happy family – a wife (Gautam) and a little son. A sudden random crime wrenches away that happiness. Badlapur then shows us how Raghav deals with this tragedy and his need to extract revenge from the perpetrators.

If you’ve seen the trailer, you know that the film gets pretty gory. Given that this was a Sriram Raghavan film, I was pretty sure that this thriller would be worth the watch. And I wasn’t wrong. Like his other films, Badlapur has a pretty strong screenplay, and the film flows smoothly. The action is spare and taut. The characters, even the minor ones, are layered and nuanced with little flecks of back-story and emotion, and that takes this film to a whole new level. The film builds up pretty well, although I was not wholly convinced by the unpredictable ending – it got a little too glib and filmy for me.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui as the small-time psychopathic criminal Liak is fabulous – but then that was expected. The big surprise here is Dhawan, for whom this is quite a departure since he’s done run-of-the-mill lover-boy roles up till now. As Raghav, Dhawan portrays a man who loses it after the tragedy. When the time comes, Raghav, deadened by grief, shows no compunction or mercy. I’m quite impressed by Dhawan’s acting here because not only does he bring intensity and simmering rage to his portrayal, but he also depicts Raghav with the cold calm demeanor of one who has nothing more to lose. He makes the portrayal stick.

Badlapur also benefits from having other wonderful actors in smaller roles. There’s Vinay Pathak as Harman, Liak’s partner in crime. Huma Qureshi is Jhimli, Liak’s prostitute girlfriend, and Divya Dutta is Shobha, a social worker. There’s Pratima Kazmi as Liak’s mother, Kumud Mishra (who was also in Rockstar) as the sharp-eyed Inspector, and Radhika Apte (you saw her in Shor In The City) as Harman’s wife. Then there are the blink-and-you’ll-miss-them roles, and even for these, stalwarts like Ashwini Khalsekhar and Zakir Hussain have been roped in.

Badlapur is not your average Bollywood fun flick. The hero doesn’t quite fit the cliched mould, and the film in its graphic, gory violence seems inspired by Korean movies. Still, it’s pretty well done, and a must watch.

Kidwise: Badlapur gets pretty gory and violent, with several hard-to-watch scenes. Unsuitable for children.

Posted in 2015, bollywood, crime, directors, drama, rating-A, rating-R, recommended, thriller | 1 Comment

What To Watch On Netflix Instant – Edition #24

The Prey (English Subtitled)The Prey (“La Proie”, France, 2011)

Frank Adrien is serving his jail sentence for a heist attempt, but breaks out of jail when he perceives a threat to his family. Now he must fight off the police (the persistent Inspector Claire is in hot pursuit), a former cell-mate, and protect his family as well as some stashed loot.

This is a French thriller, not the best one out there, but still pretty well-done. It is well-paced, fairly gripping, with a few chases, some action, and a decently tension-filled plot.

Robot and FrankRobot & Frank (USA, 2012)

Frank is getting older, and he isn’t one for much house-keeping or taking care of himself. In frustration, his son gets him a robot which serves as a medical care-taker and does the messy stuff for him. Loner Frank then develops a rapport of sorts with the robot, and tries to teach him the tricks of his trade; Frank was once a jewel thief.

This is a slow-paced, heart-warming, gentle sort of film. It is well-directed and has some nice performances.

Invasion of the Body SnatchersInvasion of the Bodysnatchers (USA, 1978)

I was curious to see this film because I had listened to the Jack Finney book upon which it is based. In the film, Dr. Bennell and others are experiencing a curious phenomenon. They think that people around them are changing – they look the same physically, but they are not the same. Is this just a misapprehension, or mass hysteria? And what is causing it?

Since this was made in 1978, the sci-fi effects seem a little campy for today. Still it is a pretty interesting film, and stars Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum and Leonard Nimoy among others.

Mardaani Hindi DVD Stg; Rani Mukherji 2014 Bollywood Hindi FilmMardaani (India, 2014)

Inspector Shivani Shivaji Roy of the Mumbai police begins to investigate the disappearance of a young orphan girl. What seemed to be a simple investigation, turns out to be the fight of her life against an evil mastermind, who doesn’t feel guilt, remorse or fear.

This is an unusual film to come out of Bollywood, because it features a strong, well-formed, independent female character, not that there aren’t any of those in Hindi cinema – there are; they are just rare. Full review here.


DetachmentDetachment (USA, 2011)

Adrien Brody stars as Henry Barthes, a substitute teacher, who teaches where he feels the need is great. He ends up teaching then at many inner city schools, and we see him at one of these in the film.  In his one month there, Henry meets fellow teacher Sarah Madison, and influences student Meredith. Then there is teenage prostitute Erica, whom Henry is trying to get off the streets.

Adrien Brody is superb as the thoughtful, introspective Henry, managing to give us a glimpse of his troubled past, and the angst and depression he dogs.

Posted in 2015, action, All Netflix, bollywood, feel-good, french, Hindi movies on Netflix, horror, mini-reviews, mystery, Netflix Recommendations, sci-fi, thriller | Leave a comment

Movie Preview : Badlapur (releases 20th February 2015)

Varun Dhawan in a “different” role in Badlapur – he plays an angry revenge-seeker. There is also Yami Gautam, Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Huma Qureshi. Also, most importantly, this is a Sriram Raghavan film.

Posted in 2015, bollywood, directors, Previews | 1 Comment