Wednesday, March 25, 2015

NH-10: A Road Less Travelled

Much has been written about the latest film ‘NH-10′, and very less remains to be said. People have passed their judgements on every aspect of the film- from Khap Panchayat to Anushka’s calibre to what needs to change in society. I do not intend to make any expert comment on these. People of high intellect have already done that.

I want to share my experience of watching the film- in a Delhi multiplex.

Story of NH-10 revolves around a couple who for some reason find themselves trapped in an unending cycle of violence just 125 kms from India’s capital city. It is a story weaved around an honour killing which has given a bad name to Haryana. But the film tries to go beyond it. It does talk about the structure of patriarchy which operates in our society. The film disturbs you.

I watched the film in PVR Anupam Saket which happens to be located in the posh area of Saket in South Delhi. As the film has a Haryanvi backdrop, it has attracted many Haryanvis, and Haryana lovers to multiplexes. There were a few college students (I assume) who were sharing their observations relating to film regularly with the entire audience. They, for reasons unknown to me, managed to laugh in scenes which made me shiver with horror.

I had a similar experience while watching Citylights few months back. There were people laughing at scenes that made me immensely uncomfortable. I want to understand why people get pleasure when a woman is slapped by another woman on screen? Why people laugh when a woman has to show her flesh in a dance bar in order to feed her child and husband? The scenes are not meant to be funny- or am I missing something?

These films- NH-10 and Citylights- have tried to show the reality of our society. There is an element of realism in these films, but still try to give poetic justice in the end. The reality of NH-10 is difficult to digest. The protagonist female smokes. The audience finds this difficult to digest. When a female character is slapped by her mother-in-law, the barely 8 year old son laughs at his mother being beaten. And so does the audience, despite knowing that the mother-in-law is the “bad woman” in the story.

The audience is thrilled when Meera (Anushka Sharma) takes her revenge by engaging in a vicious cycle of violence. But they are the same people who laugh at Meera when she rubs “Randi” (prostitute) written on the door of a public lavatory. They laugh when a police constable refuses to help her. Strangely they find it justified when she takes her revenge. Were they not on the sides of her enemies throughout the film?

The film will be forgotten, just like the honour killings that have taken place in Haryana. We will remember it as Anushka’s ‘best film’. But I will remember it for travelling through the narrow lanes of multiplexes and confusing in that the people did not seem to understand whose side they stood for.

This article was first published on LokMarg on March 21, 2015

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