Noor is 28, fun, overweight (in her own eyes), lacks a boyfriend, is a journalist forced to do foolish stories instead of ‘issue-based’ ones, and she hates her life – AND we get to hear these phrases so many times in the first few minutes – that we stop laughing even at genuinely funny lines. Yet, one cannot discard the movie as a legally silly take on ‘Legally Blonde’, because of the good performances, interesting concepts, and believe it or not, the seriously well-chosen wardrobe of the cast! The fact that one actually starts admiring costumes probably tells volumes about the movie itself, the mind has wandered so far away that the viewer is distanced from what’s actually happening on screen.
— kaahon (@kaahonwall) April 23, 2017
Pakistani journalist Saba Imtiaz’s debut novel ‘Karachi, You’re Killing Me!’ is the book on which Sunhil Sippy’s ‘Noor’ is based. In the first place, should we place the praise and the blame for the film entirely on Sippy? Writing credits are shared by Saba Imtiaz, Althea Kaushal, Shikhaa Sharma, and Sippy himself, while Ishita Moitra Udhwani has written the dialogues. Too many cooks had perhaps unwittingly spoiled the broth. Contrast this with Sippy’s debut film ‘Snip!’ (2000). The writing credits were slim: Ruchi Narayan and Sunhil Sippy. The film was tighter, simpler and on another level, gratifyingly complex. ‘Noor’ on the other hand, is more confusing than complex, with the audience doubting the script’s intentions at various key junctures.
Noor Roychoudhuri (Sonakshi Sinha) lives with her widowed father (M. K. Raina) and cat Dimpy in a South Mumbai flat, serviced by the often absent maid, Malti (Smita Tambe). Her best friends are Zaara (Smita Dandekar), a DJ and Saad (Kanan Gill) a restaurateur who flies between his business in London and the city where he grew up. Noor works for a small time television news provider called Buzz, run by her boss (Manish Chaudhary), who asks her to interview Sunny Leone and do odd pieces instead of paying attention to some ‘real’ news stories she has in mind. Enter Ayananka (Purab Kohli), the suave seducer who is a hardcore war photojournalist tired of wars. Noor stumbles upon a serious news story now, Malti’s brother is dying from a stolen kidney. She knows the doctor, who is an employee in a hospital run by her boss’s wife’s powerful family. Noor unthinkingly tries to do a story on this, it gets stolen by Ayan, and Malti’s brother is killed as a result. Noor is whisked off to London by Saad for safety. On return, she tries her best to right this chain of wrongs started by her, and solves it through an inspired bit of citizen journalism.
This seems to be a story of our urban cityscapes, our lives, and the power that we increasingly wield through digital media. But it doesn’t happen that way in the film. Why? No fault of cinematographer Keiko Nakahara, who is neat enough, nor of editor Aarif Sheikh, who is helpless in the hands of an untidy script. No fault of the actors, who all play their roles well, with Sonakshi and Smita putting up spontaneous, realistic performances. Raina comes across as a stock daddy, while Manish Chaudhary is an unbelievable editor and these are not their faults either. The three songs of the movie are jarring and unnecessary, but then, may be Mr. Sippy was just trying to push in something to make his producers happy. Casting directors Sharon Flynn and Omkar Ketkar have excelled in their department, while veteran costume designer Fabeha pulled yet another punch. So whose fault is it anyway? The answer cannot be sugar coated, the director’s and the scriptwriters’.
What stopped Sippy and team from exploring the characters (father, boss, best friend, good guy, bad guy) to make them more meaningful? Why couldn’t they at least attempt to show a media house in a slightly realistic light? Noor is not a reporter by a far cry, and her impassioned plea on social media to stand up against injustice is anything but journalistic. Having chosen a burning issue such as organ transplant rings, the script then takes every opportunity to fudge around and dodge away from even exploring it, let alone expose anything. ‘Noor’ is a coming-of-age tale. The protagonist ultimately gets rescued by a golden offer from her dramatically repentant boss, and a marriage proposal from old buddy Saad. Even if Sippy wanted to play to the galleries, he could have done it with some justice to himself. Noor could have grown into a hard-headed, practical woman who understands the material opportunity these two key choices offer her, and held on to her inner strength to utilise these to the fullest to forward her own cause as activist-journalist. But that was simply not to be, thanks again to the botching up at the very basic story level.
Yet the film has an aftereffect of having watched something that could have been a fulfilling movie of the present generation, without the usual tags like ‘peppy’ and ‘youth-oriented’. We will forgive Sunhil Sippy if we can’t forgive his protagonist, and look forward to something that will take us back to the freshness of ‘Snip!’