When Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi was released in 2008, we were introduced to Taani Sahni, a bubbly and lively character portrayed by Anushka Sharma. Director Aditya Chopra seems to have based this character on Anushka herself, who exuded the same spirit as Taani in real life too. Subsequently, it almost felt like she was typecast into this character going forward. Her million dollar smile couldn't be wasted on a glum and serious character.
In the year 2015, Anushka Sharma chose to reinvent herself. It was also one of her biggest years with 3 releases, including her very first home production NH10. This is a story about an upper middle class girl, Meera, who suffers from PTSD after escaping an attempted abduction in Gurgaon. When Meera's husband Arjun plans a romantic getaway for Meera's birthday, to take her mind off the awful event, all hell breaks loose.
The movie centres around the topic of honour killing, and its prevalence in Haryana. When Meera and Arjun stop at a dhaba for a bite to eat, they witness an abduction of two adult individuals, a girl and a boy, their screams falling on deaf ears. Meera is petrified, so far away from anything familiar, she's unresponsive and unhelpful. Arjun on the other hand has a false sense of superiority which encourages him to interfere, only to be assaulted and have his ego hurt.
The subtle nuances of male pride, even in modern educated men, hints of sexism, casteism, makes NH10 a delight to watch. The tussle between the new and the old, and modern India's false sense of achievement, gives us city dwellers goosebumps. What would you do if you were stuck in rural Haryana, and were a woman to boot? The very thought sends shivers down my spine.
To avenge his ego Arjun chases down the group of kidnappers, regardless of Meera and her pleas. His machismo only leads to a terrifying night of hide and seek. What follows is a series of mind numbing and blood curdling violence. Ultimately Meera emerges victorious, reborn even. The sense of relief that washed over me when the sun rose in the end is unexplainable. It's finally over, Meera will live.
The reason why NH10 stands out for me from all of Anushka Sharma's movies is because it transformed her from a bubbly girl to a more nuanced actor. It was also with this movie that she became a producer and went on to set standards for more female centred movies. In a way Anushka Sharma ushered in a trend with NH10, where actresses no longer waited for something interesting and engaging to come their way. Instead they went looking for it and produced it themselves.