Synopsis – Noor is a journalist who juggles her work, love and personal life on a day-to-day basis. One day, Noor’s life takes a dramatic turn when she comes across an eye-opening investigative news story.
My Take – Following the success of a few, Bollywood recently began their descent into a steady flow of self-consciously ‘women-centric’ films in theatres, with an obvious goal to cash in on the success of the some Vidya Balan & Kangana Ranaut starrers, while most of them, in my opinion, were quite hollow with zero story, self-defeating empty thin screenplays and poorly developed female leads, however despite what the figures & reviews say, I will say last year’s Sonakshi Sinha-starrer Akira was comparatively a decent watch. Looking at the trailer of this Sunhil Sippy directed film; it seemed like yet another vehicle to convince us of Sonakshi Sinha‘s unrealized acting skills. Luckily, Sonakshi Sinha’s convincing portrayal of a rising Mumbai-based journalist is noteworthy in the Bollywood’s latest woman-centric release as there is no dearth of films that are touted as coming-of-age dramas these days, this one is perhaps among the few films that actually meet the standard we expect from flicks that revolve around the development of the central character from adolescence to adulthood. However, a flippant story line which tries too hard to achieve so many things at same time & has Sonakshi needlessly breaking into monologues every now and then, it’s unfortunate that the film fails to take flight despite some genuinely good moments. Based on Saba Imtiaz’s book Karachi! You’re Killing Me, the story follows Noor Roy Chaudhary (Sonakshi Sinha), a struggling journalist, whose life is filled with a bundle of negativity, disliking flighty assignments, being overweight, clumsy, and being unlucky in small things. Her thick friends Sara (Shibani Dandekar) and Saad (Kanan Gill) are her pillars – true supportive friends who can be clinical and blunt with her. Although things change for the better when she meets Ayaan (Purab Kohli) a former war photographer and falls in love. Around that time, Noor, fed up of routine and shallow assignments meted out by boss Shekhar (Manish Chaudhury), is sent to interview Dr. Dilip Shinde, who does a lot of charity professionally. After she records the interview and plays it back at home, her domestic servant Malti (Smita Tambe) watches it and starts weeping and reveals that the doctor is a fraud, actually running an organ racket.
Thinking that this could very well be the story that could get her the recognition she’s been craving for, Noor assures safety for her & her patient brother, in exchange for speaking against Shinde, but Ayan pinches her story, and soon Malti’s brother is murdered, and the doctor exonerated. Shunned by almost everyone around her, Noor must collect her wits and make sure that she sets everything right. The film starts off as a light, breezy chick-flick and suddenly becomes dramatic and mildly preachy. You begin to enjoy the camaraderie that Noor shares with her two besties Saad and Zara, and you root for Noor and Ayan’s love story and while you are warming up to watching a funny, slice-of-life film, the film takes an unexpected turn and becomes a story of self-discovery or maybe about how insensitive big cities become to human emotions or how in the rat race, media is slowly giving up on ethics. All these sub-plots make this film a sort of a mishmash and unfortunately it doesn’t delve deeper into any of the sub-plots as everything remains on the surface level. A scene in the second half has Noor indulging in a monologue where she begins with ‘Mumbai you’re killing me’ and how unnecessarily an innocent life has been lost because of the greed of a select few and then she goes on a rant of sorts about how Mumbai is insensitive, unsafe and polluted. No idea how organ trade racket and safety of women is connected but the post goes viral on social media, making Noor a hero of sorts. The film’s social commentary is as well-intentioned as it is heavy-handed. Despite Smita Tambe’s searching performance as Noor’s hired help, there’s a sense that she exists in the film so that her employer can find her purpose in life (there’s a bordering-on-insensitive moment involving a Facebook request). It’s difficult to take Noor’s truth-seeking avatar—interrupted as it is by a holiday in London—too seriously. Her near-constant state of discontentment is, however, intriguing. As a well-off youngster who’s vaguely dissatisfied with her life, she might be grouped with Wake Up Sid’s Siddharth, Tamasha’s Ved and Dear Zindagi’s Kaira. This may be why the latter stages of the film are so difficult to believe, can the mildly disaffected ever lead the revolution? The well-intentioned commentary on organ trading triggered by a housemaid seemed just as unconvincing. Director Sippy sells the unconvincing tale peppered with surprising wit and cheekiness. The humor is subtle and though the film is overwritten and is overtly verbose, the lingo and breeziness work. What fails is the film’s ineptitude of dealing with the job and its dynamics of the job? One interview and here’s a massive story ready to go in print. Even when it does go in print, the concern is never that a lawsuit is slapped on her, it’s the credit of the story which the film loses. Sippy could have dramatized the film more and made the pace a bit faster, fitting in additional material of about 10 minutes’ length & cutting off the same amount from the existing plod that is much worse in the first half. Plus, it seems director Sippy has tried to speak to today’s digital crowd by giving out details of how social media functions, but the results do not translate to good viewing. One starts to get bored after a point and finds Noor a little too self-centered and a tad too annoying. The climax is too drab and lacks a punch. Logic evades you at many points, especially in the second half. For example, Noor’s distressed maid has Facebook access and is pretty well versed with the digital space.
The makers take the liberty of showing Noor’s power in solving a heavy-duty organ trafficking case with so much ease that it becomes tough to digest. However, the major plus of the film is despite its flaws, the film is watchable mainly due to its relate ability. Sippy’s 28-year-old heroine is a believable creature for the most part, often utterly stupid but also credible. She is more than the cutesy froth with which she is introduced to us – messy, always in a hurry, always late, cocksure, tying her hair with the first thing she can find even if that thing happens to be a sock, anxious to have a boyfriend, anxious about her weight, serious in the hours beyond her hard-partying social life. She is more than all the above because Noor has clearly thought out, clearly articulated feelings, goals and dreams, and the screenplay enables us to truly get to know this crazy woman in all her crazy, mixed-up glory, even so more for entertainment journalists, vying to move beyond puff and glossies and do something worth being lauded. So every time, Sonakshi Sinha sinks into a decadent dessert or shies away from the weighing scale or gulps down her beer in one go, you know that she is one of us, the contradictions and vulnerabilities intact. As far as the story remains in its candyfloss zone, it thrives. Journalists will share Noor’s frustration over being made to do foolish, TRP-generating reports. She pitches socially relevant stories but is sent to report on phenomena like the man in Bhiwandi who walks on his hands or the woman in Bandra who never takes her helmet off. It’s also true that newsrooms have many Bengali journalists. It’s easy to pick them out as they often cluster and speak to each other in Bengali to the annoyance of uncomprehending colleagues. But did the filmmakers really have to make all the journalists in the film Bengali? On the plus side, the film presents an unabashed picture of single-woman life in the city. Sonakshi Sinha pulls off her character without appearing to try too hard. Her natural performance as Noor once again raises the question: why does she waste herself primarily as Arm candies to popular male leads relegate her to being no more than a pout and large eyes and an attractive profile? Even as the plot slides into pure silliness, Sonakshi Sinha gets stronger. She tries too hard to be a ditz, flopping about and pulling faces, but it’s only after Noor stops behaving like a girl that Sinha becomes convincing. Yes, Sinha looks far too seasoned to be playing a greenhorn, but she is good at serious and pensive characters (for instance, in 2013’s Lootera). Her real talent comes into view after her character embraces her adult self. Purab Kohli in an extended cameo as a successful photo-journalist is sort of wasted in the film. Kanan Gill and Shibani Dandekar are equally good and it would be nice to see if they can pull off larger roles. MK Raina as Noor’s Dad is a delight to watch, In fact, the film might have benefited from exploring his character further. Manish Chaudhari brings depth to his performance as Noor’s boss, even if the treatment of her relationship with him leaves much to be desired. The pick of the cast though is the wonderful Smita Tambe playing a poor woman caught between a corrupt system and irresponsible journalism. On the whole, ‘Noor’ is letdown by a botched-up screen play despite being watchable for it’s relate ability and likable performances.
Directed – Sunhil Sippy
Rated – PG15
Run Time – 107 minutes