Noor, Akira show there is more to Sonakshi Sinha than being a decorative Bollywood heroine
In spite of a dream debut opposite Salman Khan in Dabangg (2010), Sonakshi Sinha has rarely been considered the actress 'to watch out for'. Have Akira and Noor been able to change that?
From the looks of it, the recently released Noor seemed to the film that would finally give Sonakshi Sinha her first shot at playing a ‘real’ character. In the 16 films that have featured Sonakshi Sinha most of them have relegated her to being the typical decorative Hindi film heroine and while Noor might have fallen short of expectations, it nonetheless gives us a glimpse that there is more to her than being a decorative Bollywood heroine.
Based on Saba Imatiaz’s bestseller Karachi, You Are Killing Me, Noor is about a journalist, Noor Roy Choudhary (Sinha), who finds the whole idea of being forced to do stories on Sunny Leone or a woman who never takes off her helmet instead of the well-researched ones that she submits denigrating. In the course of the film, Noor transforms into what a critic labeled “a bleeding-heart, socially conscious journalist” and becomes a crusader of sorts. Those who have read the book find that the realism that made the book organic is conspicuously missing from the film. Perhaps in a bid to infuse enough cinematic tension, the filmmakers over-dramatized the character of the small-town journalist from Karachi, You Are Killing Me for the big screen. In the bargain, the film appears trite and becomes too much of a millstone for Sonakshi Sinha to handle.
In spite of a dream debut opposite Salman Khan in Dabangg (2010) that was followed by the success of Rowdy Rathore (2012) opposite Akshay Kumar and Son of Sardaar (2012) along with Ajay Devgn in the same year, Sinha has rarely been the one to watch out for. There was nothing in her that made her stand apart in a landscape peppered with a Kangana Ranaut, a Deepika Padukone, or an Alia Bhatt. She was hardly in consideration even when it came to playing the lead in a comparatively smaller film or being a significant part of an ensemble a la Richa Chaddha, Huma Qureshi, Radhika Apte or Swara Bhaskar. Sinha tried to shift gears by doing Vikramaditya Motwane’s Lootera (2013), a film where the combination of being the director’s follow-up to the critically acclaimed Udaan and the presence of popular actors such as Ranveer Singh and Sonakshi tried to merge the best of both worlds. When the film failed Sinha went back to familiar territory with Once Upon a Time in Mumbai Dobaara! (2013), R... Rajkumar (2013), Bullett Raja (2013), Lingaa (2014), Action Jackson (2014), Holiday (2014) and Tevar (2015). These films paired her with top stars (Akshay Kumar, Shahid Kapoor, Saif Ali Khan, Rajinikanth and Ajay Devgn) but most of them were critical as well as commercial letdowns. In old Hindi cinema such a track record would have the beginning of the end for Sinha and although things are different in new Bollywood, Sinha didn’t give any indication that she was even keen to shake things up. It is around this period that she featured in a film, which from a broad perspective met a similar fate as her previous few films but managed to make a conspicuous enough shift in the way Sinha would be seen by the audiences as well as the trade.
Pitched as a film featuring a ‘strong woman’ central character, Akira might have been well intended but was besieged with most clichés that standard Bollywood potboilers thrive on. Directed by A.R. Murugadoss of Ghajini fame, Akira is the story of a girl, Akira (Sinha), who stands up to bullies but instead of being lauded is sent to a remand home to be regulated and years later takes on a corrupt cop in the big bad Mumbai. The film is signature Murgadoss where a wafer-thin plot is decked up with stylised shots of the ‘hero’ (Sinha) walking in slow motion and kicking, breaking bones and flying around et al. In true Murugadoss style, the film is also pointless but it gave Sonakshi Sinha a role that none of her contemporaries can claim to have done. It was also the first time that most critics, who up until then had never really credited Sinha with anything and not without good reason, couldn’t help notice the manner in which she transcended the limitations of the role. In the end, even if Akira did not break the stereotypes that it intended to, it more than managed to help Sinha stand out and the difference it made is visible with Noor.
A few decades ago Sonakshi Sinha’s career could have easily morphed into the ones that Amrita Singh or Farah Naaz had in the 1980s where they were part of big productions, enjoyed box office hits and yet never got scripts that could give them half a shot to do justice to their ability. For an industry insider such as Sinha a big break or continuing to land roles in marquee productions isn’t surprising but that a solo lead would take so long to materialise surely is. Sinha seems at home in Akira and Noor and despite the shortcomings of these films, it makes it interesting enough to see what’s next on the cards for the actor.
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