Not a big fan of Anushka Sharma. However, I do have to appreciate the fact that she deigned to go offbeat and non-mainstream with her maiden production company's (Clean Slate - nice name) first foray into Indian film.
Strange that Navdeep Singh has not directed a single movie since 8 years. His last one was desi Chinatown-lite, Manorama 6 feet under.
As a genre, in spite of its various local-flavor trappings this owes a lot to 'Duel', 'Breakdown' and 'Joyride/Roadkill'.
Anyways, thought I'd get that outta the way since they were gonna crop up anyways while referencing influences and whatnot.
One more thing - this was the sanitized version of the movie I got to watch at the local cinema. As usual, the powers-that-be were inconsistent about the excisions, both on a few gory visuals, as well as the swearing. They were consistent about focusing on the swearing and not the gore, and were not saddled with nudity that would have perhaps been the first on the list. The infamous list also made its (non) appearance with all the word-mutings and the word- replacements.
One of the best things about the flick is the sense of foreboding that pervades it, and ratchets up gradually, even from the first sequence where we realize that we're not gonna watch any candy-floss flick. That, along with a sense of groundedness throughout, are the movie's strengths, along with some inconsistently good cinematography, supported by good location-work and camera-work (inconsistent, since the lighting doesn't support the sequences where the movie is shot in the indoors of a car, except towards the end, when it seems like someone woke up to it before it reached the editing stage).
The background score, and the (unnecessary, but thankfully short) tracks, were not as memorable as the ones in 'Badlapur' (comparing since that was also a gritty piece of work with a minimalistic, yet effective background score, and it would have been nice if adequate care was taken in that department for this flick as well).
The performances are all good, though Naval doesn't get much time to showcase hers (good, within the scope of the plot though), and the transition the lead makes, in spite of her character's multiple mis- steps (more to do with the writing, IMO) over the course of the movie's slim runtime, are believable, and more importantly, evoke empathy amongst most of the audience (not including those who were audibly having fun when female characters were being physically abused - ugh).
I also liked the way in which a little light got shone on the everyday reality of honor killing, and a particularly surprising conversation that occurs on the subject of caste. Very nicely handled, along with having an iron-hand-in-velvet-glove kinda approach, which kinda suited the subject, along with the context in which it was brought up, and their being inter-woven into the larger tale.
There are 2 good instances of delicious irony in the flick, that go to illustrate how we need to understand a little more about the motivations of those who think are not being helpful, along with acknowledging surefire signs that things are (most definitely) gonna go south (though that often borderlines with being labeled paranoid, and we all know the curse of labeling motivating those who're defensive into tight corners from which there is no walking away).
However, all that good things apart, in spite of the fact that this is an offbeat subject, certain things are resolved in a simplistic manner. Maybe good from the perspective of the revenge thriller genre, but considering the overall tone I thought the makers seemed to be striving for, there was a mismatch in the denouement.
I do hope there's a sequel that can put right the mis-steps committed by the writers towards the end, but that is too much to expect.
All in all, a good watch at the multiplex, but might not prove memorable as time goes by.