‘Noor’ review: Hollow Ma’am

You’re facing what is possibly the biggest crisis of your life. You’re at your wit’s end, wondering how on earth you’ll ever resolve it. No, your boyfriend hasn’t given you the thumbs down. And no, your first date didn’t end up with you slobbering all over your mains. It’s much worse than this and anything else. Your trusted maid for years hasn’t turned up to work! And it’s all your fault, your selfishness and stupidity that’s the cause d’origine of your maid’s chagrined situation. So, what do you do? Yes, you rush to where she lives, a run-down place, silhouetted by poverty and hopelessness. Yes, yes, you knock on the door, call out her name. And she refuses to see you. Yes, yes, yes, you’re getting desperate now. You’ve got your father with you, he calls and knocks, but no response. Yes, yes, yes, yes. The situation, to put it bluntly, is rather grim. The hours pass by. And then what do you do? You send her a friend request on Facebook.  Her quarters are dark, she sitting on the floor, hugging her knees. And then her mobile screen lights up on the floor next to her. She looks at it coldly.

When this scene came up in Noor, I gave up all hope, for the love of Zuckerberg.  In director Sunhil Sippy, and writers Althea Delmas-Kaushal, Shikhaa Sharma, Sunhil Sippy (same fella), and Saba Imtiaz’s sure and unwavering hands at the wheel, Noor is a downhill ride, with both feet on the accelerator.  Based on Saba Imtiaz’s (same lady) novel, Karachi, You’re Killing Me! – full disclosure: I haven’t read the book, and with this cinematic mess, I’ll need a strong drug to make me forget what I saw before I can remember to read – I had hopes for this project. It’d have been perfectly okay if this went the way of the entertaining and schadenfreude-cloaked Bridget Jones’s Diary. It’d have been perfectly okay if, post-interval, director Sippy, with an alembic shot of conscience, decided to make it into a journalistic drama. But he does neither, relying on a filmmaking style that at best, can be described as lazy and at worst, sloppy.

The premise is all cued up for some laughs and titters, but it never unspools– Noor (Sonakshi Sinha) is a wannabe-serious journalist at a Mumbai-based news curating agency called, ah forget it. Her boss-editor, played by Manish Chaudhary, sends her on assignments which end up tracking a gent somewhere in the city who’s been walking on his hands for a year or so. If I was Noor, I’d have taken the hint – my boss does not like me. But she persists, telling him, “I want a serious assignment!” and in her voice over, makes profound declarations such as “I hate my life!”, “My job sucks!”, “I’m fat!” I, for one, don’t blame her boss, for Noor’s incessant chatter gives away a lack of dictionary and a reading habit, rather than a lack of life. And I’m also recommending him for this year’s Editor’s Guild’s Award for Nurturing Idiocy With the Patience of a Gandhi. Then, there’s some fun banter with her father (M.K. Raina), which also suddenly gives way to a loving lecture on her late mother and on finding herself and her life. (The latter part of the sermon referring to Noor, not her mother.)

sonakshi kanan gill
Sonakshi Sinha, Kanan Gill: pub-escent beahvior

The insufferable Noor has two friends, who you’d think would be rather top-class twits to put up with her whining – one is Zara Patel (Shibani Dandekar) and the other, Saad Sehgal (Kanan Gill), the latter, believe it or swoon, a food tycoon in London, who flies into Mumbai more frequently than British Airways pilots. Director Sippy then introduces Noor’s romantic angle with Ayan Mukherjee (Purab Kohli), he an award-winning photo journalist, formerly with CNN (I know, don’t ask.) There’s some romance, a romp in the bed, and then even as Noor stumbles onto a big story – that involves her potential Facebook friend, her maid, Malati (Smita Tambe)  – there’s betrayal. And the titular character has to make amends and also sort out her issues with her boss, her friends, and dad – and of course, Malati.

There’s a whiff of genuine moments – when dad walks into a Skype conversation between Noor and Ayan; or when Noor orders a diet coke with her favorite Old Rum. (Honestly, why couldn’t the producers pay Mohan Meakins and show the actual Old Monk instead?) But these are so far and not even in-between that you actually got to make a note of it to make sure they don’t get buried amidst the mountain of inanities that the director throws at you.

purab kohli, sonakshi sinha - blowing it all away
Purab Kohli, Sonakshi Sinha: blowing it all away.

There’s a scene where the phlegmatic Saad takes Noor away to London – and then confronts her in a scene where she’s experimenting with wine with the zest of a fish. After lecturing her with the enthusiasm of an underpaid professor, he yanks the bottle away from her hand, and tells her, “This bar is closed!” Oh goody, you cheer the old chap. And then, even before you can bite into the popcorn that you just sent into the hatch, the friends are walking into the nearest bar, where the straight-faced Saad orders two large ales, followed by another and another. Or, watch the scene where Saad (same fella) takes Noor for a walk – another time in the park, so stop smacking your lips in anticipation of a voyeuristic Guinness shot. He stops under a tree and mouths some gob smacking twaddle about how we’re all insignificant under this tree of life. I can see Terence (Ma)lick-ing his wounds here.

What’s a cast to do, if they’ve read the script and then forced to enact such scenes at gun point? I’m assuming that’s what happened here, unless they were all given a pitcher of Rooh Afza laced with absinthe during the shoot. So, your heart reaches out to the supremely talented MK. Raina and Manish Choudhary, as they flounder with achingly dull dialogues (penned by Ishita Moitra Udhwani) ; or, the fabulous Smita Tambe who, you suspect, hugs and makes up with Noor just to get out of the movie. Shibani Dandekar makes the best of a piecemeal role, while Kanan Gill must be bracing himself to get a taste of his own meds. But you mostly cry for Sonakshi Sinha, who, yet again, pours everything she’s got into a project that, in hindsight, was doomed from the point of its lazy inception and careless conception. The actor actually glimmers in this waif- and wafer-thin plot, lending it a sparkle that it truly didn’t deserve. Next time, please, please read the script – and say no to that juice.

sonakshi sinha - reads post-its but not scripts
Sonakshi Sinha: she reads post-its but not scripts.

For succor, you turn to the music. Now, Amaal Mallik is no Rahul Dev Burman  – the latter mining diamonds for the most Titanic of all box office outings – so, you don’t expect too much. But Mallik does the unforgivable – he actually takes Pancham’s champagne classic, Gulabi Aankhen (The Train) and turns it into a despicable toddy. You’d much rather watch Rajesh Khanna cavort as if red ants were at his heels than watch this gruesome number, that, believe it or Bappi, actually uses some part of Lahiri’s fun, foot-tapping Disco Station (Haathkadi) as well.

Noor, then, gives mainstream movies a bad name, and that’s putting it mildly. When it’s not silly, it’s embarrassingly pretentious. Under the garb of addressing weighty issues such as organ harvesting and journalistic ethics, it’s simply a shortcut and short circuited effort to make some quick bucks. And it’s bizarrely dolled up for highfalutin conversations for to have when you’re chomping caviar and sipping Cabernet Sauvignon.  When Noor begins to blast Mumbai in a yawn-inducing soliloquy, calling it rotten and hollow, and begins to list all that ails it – even suggesting that the tsunami that hit Chennai in 2004 ought to have spread its footprint to Mumbai, so that it could have had a new beginning –  you want to tell her that in an ironically and in a strangely unintended and funny way, it’s you who are hollow, ma’am.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, my newspaper vendor hasn’t delivered the Sunday papers. I’m sending him a Facebook request.

Noor is rated UA (parental Guidance for children below the age of 12 years).  There’s sexual references and tons of tokenism. The former is bearable, the latter isn’t. 

 Sunhil Sippy Running Time 1h 47 min
Writers Althea Delmas-Kaushal, Shikhaa Sharma, Sunhil Sippy , Saba Imtiaz
Stars Sonakshi Sinha, Purab Kohli, Kanan Gill, Shibani Dandekar, Manish Choudhary
Genres Adventure, Comedy, Drama

Watch the trailer of Noor here: