Any film that begins with an “ancient quote” attributed to Buddha believes in the power of the Weighty Statement. Such a film is Noor (based on Saba Imtiaz’s novel Karachi, You’re Killing Me!), where director Sunhil Sippy and dialogue writer Ishita Moitra Udhwani have their characters saying stuff like “If I’ve learnt anything it’s that I should live for today” and “You remind me of the person I used to be”. These just aren’t the sort of things people say in their day-to-day lives, which is why they stick out awkwardly in a film that adopts—from its opening voice-over onwards—a breezy, conversational tone.
On the other hand, the writers (Sippy, Althea Delmas-Kaushal and Shikhaa Sharma worked on the screenplay) show impressive speed and skill in sketching their titular character. Noor (Sonakshi Sinha) is klutzy, frumpy (if only by movie star standards), dissatisfied with her job as a sensation-chasing journalist, and prone to complaining about her weight, her love life, and her life in general. She wants to do “issue-based broadcast journalism”; instead, she’s assigned local stories about a woman who never takes her helmet off and a man who only walks on his hands.
I’m unsure whether the film is knowing or oblivious about Noor’s ineptitude at her job. When she lands an actual story—an organ harvesting racket carried out by a doctor working under a charitable trust—she conducts exactly one interview (which could be easily discredited) and immediately heads to office and demands that her editor, Shekhar (Manish Chaudhary), put the story on air. Issue-based broadcast journalism is such a breeze—or so the audience is led to think until things suddenly go south. Yet, even when this happens, the film is more concerned with Noor being cheated out of her story than the high probability that, had it been aired, the story would have invited scorn and possibly a lawsuit.
While an unconvincing portrait of a working journalist, Noor is still a fully realized character: both under- and over-confident, capable of staring down her mentor but also of giddily crushing on 40-something photojournalist Ayan (Purab Kohli). Sinha conveys Noor’s many frustrations through a series of grimaces, eye rolls, pouts, scowls and goofy grins; there’s an amusing dorkiness to Noor, even if her general appearance is a little too perfect for someone who’s just woken up hungover. Kohli supplies smarm and little charm (“Hey gorgeous” is how he opens a Skype conversation with someone he’s only just met); comic Kanan Gill, debuting as Noor’s super-nice friend, Saad, is very watchable, but could have done with a little more definition from the writers.
The film’s social commentary is as well-intentioned as it is heavy-handed. Despite Smita Tambe’s searching performance as Noor’s hired help, there’s a sense that she exists in the film so that her employer can find her purpose in life (there’s a bordering-on-insensitive moment involving a Facebook request). It’s difficult to take Noor’s truth-seeking avatar—interrupted as it is by a holiday in London—too seriously. Her near-constant state of discontentment is, however, intriguing. As a well-off youngster who’s vaguely dissatisfied with her life, she might be grouped with Wake Up Sid’s Siddharth, Tamasha’s Ved and Dear Zindagi’s Kaira. This may be why the latter stages of Noor are so difficult to believe. Can the mildly disaffected ever lead the revolution?