Director: Sunhil Sippy
It’s been a while since Page 3: one of the rare mainstream Hindi films based on a journalist, or the field of journalism in general. We’ve seen the insides of newsrooms in sub-threads of many movies, where the essence of journalism is more or less characterised by scoop-hungry entertainment (or gay) scribes looking to take down a celebrity. While Madhur Bhandarkar’s film was a pulpy, heightened representation (like every film he has ever made) pivoting on Konkana Sen Sharma’s affable presence, Noor looks to be a more of a gender-centric character fluff piece — more about a Drew Barrymore-ish girl working in journalism, rather than journalism swallowing a girl whole. And, as is the norm, ‘nerd glasses’ are worn to indicate the grittiness of a commercial actress taking on a notoriously unglamorous profession.
Of course, the trailer switches gears as it should, going from clumsy-working-girl-in-Mumbai to love triangle to realising-ambition to heavy conflict, in which this profession seems to be her coming-of-age device. Terms like ethics and humans are thrown around with great weight by her boss (Manish Chaudhary, in his 6872nd role as an urban boss), demonstrating the probability of a free-flowing Noor making a mistake, becoming a cornered underdog, getting an epiphany, discovering lost footage (or something of the sort) and then rising from the ashes to ‘expose’ a humungous cover-up, thereby putting her at Pulitzer-prize-level reportage level overnight.
As expected, you hear a ‘interview Sunny Leone’ when “people have died in local trains” — as if film journalism is the flimsy nadir of it all, and its existence is merely to show why “serious” journalism is the only beat worth covering. One can’t blame the filmmakers, because ‘entertainment journalism’ is, actually, woeful in this country, despite the presence of many senior editors with decades of experience.
The template of this film is obvious, because it’s based on the book “Karachi: you’re killing me” by Saba Imtiaz — note the final line of the trailer, where Noor tearfully addresses Mumbai in a monologue that will no doubt wax eloquent about the simultaneous horror and beauty of living in the city. But it could just be novel because of the actress chosen: Sonakshi Sinha, who seems to be experimenting a little more (last year she tried the femme-fatale-action-heroine genre with Akira), after spending years as aimless arm-candy in macho Bollywood remakes of South Indian blockbusters. She seems to have improved, as is evident from the very Kangana-Ranaut-ish way she cracks a joke mid-trailer, almost snorting at her own wit. There’s also the nth remix of ‘Gulabi Aankhen,’ that serves as a prelude to the shit-hitting-the-fan portion. That her best-friend-turned-love-interest is played by a popular heart-throb of a stand-up comedian (Kanan Gill) sort of adds to its quirky casting-choice charm.
One doesn’t expect hard-boiled authenticity and research when Hindi cinema decides to employ the services of a profession for their protagonists; if everything were to be real, there would really be nothing worth watching about a bunch of overworked journalists perpetually scrambling to meet a deadline. Jolly LLB did just fine, because it was — and not despite being — a gloriously silly turn on the Indian legal system. It matters what the filmmakers say within their cinematic or contrived worlds, not really how they say it. Which is why maybe something like Noor looks like a fairly promising film — not quite a popcorn flick, but maybe a Cola watch — because there’s at least an attempt to lend a righteous desi twist to the Bridget-Jones template. Thankfully, the face they chose couldn’t have been any better.
[Noor releases on April 21st, 2017]