Simply put, NH4 is a story of a boy and girl on the run, chased by a shrewd cop at the behest of the girl’s powerful father. We’ve seen such films before, haven’t we? But what makes NH4 engrossing is the coming together of a good screenplay, acting, cinematography and music. Debut director Manimaran knows his craft. Backed by his mentor and producer Vetrimaaran, he goes all out to give us a crisp and enjoyable film. The opening sequence sets the tone and the pace of the film, never letting it slip for a long time. Prabhu (Siddharth) and his friends plot to kidnap Ritika (newcomer Ashrita Shetty) and avenge the insult meted out to them earlier by her father, a politician. The Bangalore-based group plan to take the shortest route to Chennai via NH4, which gives them a better chance to escape to different destinations, making it tough to be hunted down. The director is helped hugely by good editing (Kishore Te) and gritty cinematography (Velraj).

Manoj Menon (Kay Kay Menon), an efficient cop who doesn’t hesitate to wipe out suspects through fake encounters, is assigned the task of tracking down the couple. A smart cat-and-mouse game ensues as the couple shifts between trains, bikes and cars with the cop at their heels. It’s a case of being so near yet so far for the cop as he pieces together the puzzle of the youngsters’ love story and closes in on them. The director does a good job of developing the love story while simultaneously showing the character shades of the cop. The jealousy and insecurity associated with college romances is told beautifully through the lead characters and their group of friends.

With the story set in Karnataka, there’s a liberal smattering of Kannada adding to the authenticity, with Telugu subtitles and an occasional voiceover guiding you through the proceedings. Also noteworthy is the opening credit line which mentions that the makers have taken creative liberties to modify the functioning of the police force to suit the script.

We’ve lost count of the number of films in which Siddharth is a college student. Yet, he appears apt for the role and sets aside his boisterous self to come up with a controlled, understated performance. Newcomer Ashrita Shetty shows promise and her capability of bringing to the screen the vulnerability and innocence of a 17/18-year-old makes her endearing. Watch her getting possessive about her boyfriend or defending him in front of the cop. This girl has huge potential. Kay Kay Menon is terrific as the cop caught between his commitment and listening to his inner voice. It’s hard to imagine the film without him.

Songs and background score by G.V. Prakash are a huge asset to the film. Velraj works his camera like a pro taking you into the crowded Brigade Road and lanes of Bangalore. There’s a likeable dark, moody quality about the cinematography that adds to the narrative. The only grouse is the lack of surprise towards the end. When the inevitable clash happens between Kay Kay Menon and Siddharth, it seems too simple.

Take a ride down this highway just to see how a talented director can make a simple story engaging.

NH4

Cast: Siddharth, Ashrita Shetty and Kay Kay Menon

Direction: Manimaran

Music: G.V. Prakash Kumar

Plot: A couple is on the run, chased by a shrewd cop who has to piece together a puzzle of love, friendship and revenge.

Bottomline: We recommend a drive down this highway.

Keywords: NH4 review