Eden Lake is a little known British Horror-Thriller back from 2008. Its big claim is that it stars Michael Fassbender. Rest of the way, it was a textbook thriller, with Slasher and Snuff elements. There were a few good things about the movie and you’ll find almost all in Anushka Sharma’s latest NH10. The inspired story, is adapted to an Indian setting. Certain changes are actually pretty good. But once you know the movie is inspired, it just robs you of all the drama and fun. It would be safe to say, if you haven’t heard about the original then you’re in for a decent surprise. These kind of Indie horror thrillers have never been attempted in Hindi cinema. You wouldn’t have seen something like this before.
It’s pretty evident, the film won’t score any marks on its borrowed concept. Where it does deserve a critique is its execution and treatment. The story deals with a young couple driving out to their vacation. Unfortunately they run in to a group of Jats out on an honour killing. Arjun (Neil Bhoopalam) is swayed by adrenaline and a saviour complex. He decides to meddle with the gang of unruly and angry North Indian men. And that’s where the fatal chase begins. The basic story has been tweaked here to include elements of honour killings and women empowerment. That’s what makes this movie worth while.
It’s good to watch a woman who’s more level headed than her better half. Who can smoke a cigarette just for the sake of having one. Who can drive a car better than any tom, dick or harry in Delhi. And one who doesn’t take things lying down. That’s Anushka Sharma’s character, the spirited Meera. Everything about her makes this film better than a run-of-the-mill DVD replica. Having said that, Eden Lake’s big punch to the gut comes from the sense of peril experienced by its female lead. In NH10, that sense of despair doesn’t hit you. You’ve got a regular Delhi girl on the run from ruthless men. If apprehended, she’d mostly be raped and killed. But the film never quite manages to establish that tension. Anushka’s character sails through the challenges with too much ease. In movie formula terms, the bad guy never gets his moment. That’s never a good sign in a thriller.
Director Navdeep Singh’s treatment of the film is slick. The visuals are appropriately dark and murky. The sense of gloom prevails throughout. It sets the right mood. But when it comes to the final act, he drops the ball. That Anushka’s character is not the clichéd victim is great. But when it comes to believing in her struggle, its a bit pat. Her sense of loss and her on-the-edge situation are too incidental. Anushka handles the myriad emotions with aplomb. She’s great in the action scenes too. The actress is the main reason you connect with the character. Her performance reverberates the right kind of energy into the film. But then you have the creative making her do ludicrous things like killing a man with just a ball pen. It just defeats the whole purpose of things.
Performances by Neil Bhoopalam, Darshan Kumar and Deepti Naval are credible. None of them falter, not even a bit in convincing you about their characters. As for the film itself, it does not offer the same conviction. It has the trappings to sway the average Hindi movie buff, some might even see a great leveller in it. But to the Hollywood regular this one’s just another release.
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