Sunhil Sippy's Noor, adapted from the 2014 book Karachi, You’re Killing Me! by Saba Imtiaz, follows the life of a young Mumbai woman who aspires to be a successful journalist and lead a fulfilling personal life.
Hindi films more often than not falter when depicting journalism. Just as Madhur Bhandarkar's Page 3 (2005) journalist is stuck reporting on socialite parties instead of doing some serious journalism, Sippy's Noor, too, is forced to interview Sunny Leone instead of going out there to bust a scam. Is she the only reporter at the news agency she is working at? Are there no assigned beats? And why does journalism have to be two extremes? More on that later.
Things do start off nicely as we get introduced to the cute and clumsy Noor Roy Choudhary (Sonakshi Sinha) and the members of the house — her father and an adorable ginger cat Dimpy — maid Malti, and childhood friends Saad Sehgal (Kanan Gill) and Zara Patel (Shibani Dandekar) through snappy and entertaining commentary by the protagonist.
Noor hates her life, is obsessed by her body weight, loves Old Monk rum, parties hard with friends, wakes up with a hangover, crawls to work and laments about being stuck in a dead-end job where she is unable to explore her potential.
Noor works at a news agency run by an editor (Manish Choudhari) who was an inspirational figure for journalists once but now runs a news agency owned by his wife that is into freakshow stories and celebrity news.
But things change quickly as dishy photojournalist Ayan Banerjee (Purab Kohli) enters Noor's life and the two hit it off quickly. The writers seem to be very confused about Kohli's character — is he supposed to be a media photographer or a reporter?
Soon she also lands a juicy lead, which could expose an organ-trafficking racket in the city. But her carelessness and eagerness to jump on to the story lands someone close to her in deep trouble.
It's all going well and you are beginning to enjoy Sinha's endearing performance and the rom-com space of the film when things begin to go downhill. The pace dips and so does the charm of Noor's life story as we begin to move towards the much larger subject of ethical journalism. Balancing a personal life story with larger issues is always tricky territory and requires directorial expertise.
Here is when we also realize why Noor is not a good reporter and is stuck chasing inconsequential stories. Even rookie reporters know that just airing a video interview without any research and evidence building is reckless. Or that not taking a response from the accused / opposite party is harakiri.
So Noor's rise to becoming a social media sensation and some sort of desktop activist is too convenient. Well, it probably does mirror the times we live in, but as a cinematic device it feels quite hollow.
Sippy finds the equivalent of Page 3's juvenile crime-reporting fundas and 2009's Wake Up Sid's highly simplistic column 'Girl in the City' in Noor's rant about Mumbai's sorry state in a video titled 'Mumbai, You Are Killing Me'. Despite Sinha's good performance, the scene doesn't move you, even as someone who is passionate about the city.
I don't like saying this, but the film is more watchable because of Noor's personal struggles and not her professional endeavours. Her heartbreak is more touching than her failing at her job. It's the emotional scene towards the end, where Sinha tells her maid that her life (a poor person's life) matters as much as that of someone like Sinha, that is more moving than all her journalistic shenanigans.
Coming back to what we touched upon at the beginning, the film tackles the issue of responsible and ethical journalism in the current times of viral videos, citizen journalists, and social media. It attempts to discuss today's media culture in which everyone just wants to jump on to the latest news and break the story first, instead of focusing on research and being patient and understanding that people's lives could be at stake. But Sippy makes exactly the same mistake when it comes to his own film script. More research and accurate portrayal of his journalist characters and the issues the film delves into could have taken it a long way.
As the movie goes along, Sinha gets stronger. She portrays every scene with conviction, rendering an honest and mature performance — an indication of her untapped potential and not-so-great choice of films as an actress. But the flippant treatment of some important subjects lets her down.
Reviewed by Suparna Thombare