Noor movie review: Sonakshi Sinha’s film is flawed, but it’s not Akira-style fake ‘woman-centricity’
Director: Sunhil Sippy
Noor Roy Chaudhary is a young mediaperson in Mumbai, keen to practice journalism with meaning, journalism that makes a difference to humanity and is aimed at the larger good. The chasm separating what she wants to do (unearth corruption, for instance) and what she is allowed to by her video news agency (interview Sunny Leone, cover Ripley’s-Believe-It-Or-Not kind of drama) seems unbridgeable, and so she spends her life cribbing about...well...her life.
Then one day Noor catches a newsbreak that she is convinced will make her. In mishandling that report though, she ends up ruining people who matter to her and almost finishing herself.
Director Sunhil Sippy’s Noor is about her reparation and how she gets her world back on track. It is based on the book Karachi: You’re Killing Me by Saba Imtiaz. The screenplay is by Althea Delmas-Kaushal, Shikhaa Sharma and Sippy himself, with dialogues by Ishita Moitra Udhwani.
Before going into a deeper analysis of this film it is important to get this out of the way: the past year has seen a steady flow of self-consciously ‘women-centric’ films in theatres. Most have been hollow, with zero story and zero understanding of or commitment to women. Their sole goal appears to have been to cash in on what the industry sees as a “trend” of women-centric films – like the best Vidya Balan starrers – making big money at the box office. Yes, the makers of such films see women as a “trend”, not people (like men) with lives that are big-screen-worthy for all seasons. The result: they have ended up delivering self-defeating emptiness with thin screenplays and poorly developed female leads, the worst of them being the Sonakshi Sinha-starrer Akira last year. Noor, which too features Sinha in the lead, is thankfully about a story and a woman with a story worth telling, not about Akira-style fake ‘woman-centricity’.
This is what makes Noor watchable despite its flaws, of which there are many. 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.
Just when you think Noor is headed in the direction of being yet another Bridget Jones (meaning: a character written with a veneer of liberalism but no real pre-occupation beyond worrying about her next boyfriend and her next lay), the writing team thankfully goes elsewhere.
Noor speaks lines mirroring the language of a real youngster from her background in Mumbai – for the most part. I repeat “for the most part” here too, because her “tu”, “tumhara” and casual impertinence towards her fatherly editor-owner is pretentious wannabe coolth authored by someone who seems to have a rather irritating stereotypical notion of how news offices function. It is a major flaw in a film that is otherwise not overtly trying to impress.
Noor’s botched-up big break provokes us to think of the ephemeral impact of news coverage not backed by commitment and follow-ups. What happens when the cameras go away and real human beings are left to their own devices, at the mercy of the powers that be just as they were before the spotlight fell on them? This is the overriding takeaway from the film, which makes even its failings forgivable.
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 on Akshay Kumar starrers and the like that demean women and relegate her to being no more than a pout and large eyes and an attractive profile?
The supporting cast is interesting. Kanan Gill and Shibani Dandekar both have attractive personalities and it would be nice to see if they can pull off larger roles. MK Raina as Noor’s Dad is a sweetheart. 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.
The film’s pluses do not eclipse its minuses though. Its news office milieu is poorly sketched, and while showing Noor re-reporting a news story that was treated cursorily at first, it does not bother to explain what “research” she added to it beyond saying that she did. Such superficiality takes away from the film’s good intentions.
Towards the end, when it seems like Noor is about to lose her way again, this time to become a conformist, a senior tells her: Having found yourself with such difficulty, are you already forgetting that self? It is an excellent line perfectly placed in the film. Unfortunately, it can equally be applied to Sippy’s approach to this work. Just as he has convinced us that Noor is a person of substance who is complete unto herself, he quickly slaps a romance on to his storyline, as if to hurriedly satisfy conventional Hindi film viewers who may consider a romantic interest an essential part of any film and more conservative viewers who consider a woman incomplete without a man. Worse, he then wraps up his film with an ‘item’ song in which Noor dances in a little dress and is pushed around by a man, as women tend to be in formulaic Hindi films.
C’mon, Mr Sippy, why not go all the way? Why be apologetic about the point you make?
That said, I would still like very much to see the director’s next film. This is his return as a helmsman after a gap of 17 years (I confess I have not managed to find his first film, Snip!, released in 2000). Here is hoping that Film No. 3 is more confident of itself and we do not have to wait another 17 years for it.
Ditto for Sonakshi Sinha. Four years have flown between the remarkable Lootera and Noor which, despite its follies, serves as a good showcase for her talent. Here is hoping we do not have to wait another four years for a film that does not treat her like a prop.