Meera and Arjun are professionals living in Gurgaon. On their way to a luxurious desert holiday they stop on a Highway dhaba for dinner, where they witness a young girl being picked up by a bunch of hoodlums. Arjun chooses to step in, unmindful of the danger ahead.
04 Feb NH 10 (2015)
The Nation’s Road
When I write about folding, rarely do I mention this sort. There are two threads here, designed to reinforce each other.
One thread is a story about a modern Indian woman, someone who might fit into an American movie well enough. In standard noir form, she finds herself in challenging situations. This unrolls expertly. Though the basic story is just the chase of a woman by dangerous men, we get enough new circumstance to engage. The signature scene, the apparent payoff is at the end where she gets some revenge, calmly reflected on.
Another thread is intended for the Indian audience and is a bit hard for this American to enter. India is Hindu in the way Israel and Pakistan base their national identity on a religious one. There are many such nations, all with a burden of medieval practice.
The dynamic of noir is that the unlikely events occur as if the viewer were in the film, manipulating as if they were gods in the displayed world. Some filmmakers work with this to create dissonance between who we think we are and what we like to experience.
In this case, the audience is Hindu. The situation this woman is put in by those Hindus is witness to an honor killing, thereby becoming a victim. A family kills their daughter for falling in love with someone from a different sub caste. The offense is so severe that brutality as extreme as possible is warranted. Local police support this.
For me as an American, the noir dynamic is uncomplicated: do I like to see a woman in distress gain control of the thugs around her? For Indians, the noir dynamic is deeper and far more disturbing: This is who you are in some deep way, these rural dangers in designer clothes, these people obsessed with a religious identity that acts, these zealots who anchor your identity.
I can see it, but because my story sails on different waters, I am not sunk. For native viewers, the tragedy is that this woman survives.
Posted in 2015
Ted’s Evaluation — 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.