Noor movie review: Sonakshi Sinha’s film is flawed, but it’s not Akira-style fake ‘woman-centricity’

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. 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.
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.

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