Madhur Bhandarkar’s Page 3 (2005) is about a young female journalist who wants to be on Page 1. Madhavi (Konkona Sen Sharma) is saddled with following vacuous Mumbai personages and reproducing their inanities for her newspaper’s celebrity section. It is only after Madhavi moves to the crime beat that she becomes a “real” journalist, but she pays the price for her investigative skills. In the movie’s final frames, Madhavi is seen wandering desultorily at the very parties she despises, proving that there are only two fates for screen journalists: sorry defeat or righteous triumph.
Madhavi may have run into Noor Roy Chaudhary at one of her Page 3 parties, she of the regal double-barrelled name, prohibitively expensive Art Deco apartment, extensive wardrobe, understanding father with an adorably grumpy ginger cat, and maid who cleans up after her. The always superbly attired Noor (Sonakshi Sinha) slaves away in a news agency for an editor (Manish Chaudhuri) who was once apparently an inspirational figure but has now opted to run his wife’s company.
The news agency specialises in entertainment and freak show stories – from Sunny Leone to the man who walks on his hands – but Noor wants to be serious and be taken seriously. The opportunity presents itself when her maid Malti (Smita Tambe) gives her a video interview that exposes a scam.
Up until this moment, Sunhil Sippy’s adaptation of Saba Imtiaz’s bestseller Karachi, You’re Killing Me! is taking firm strides in classic romcom territory. Noor is a self-absorbed scatterbrain prone to missing the wood for the trees. Her friends Zaara (Shibani Dandekar) and Saad (Kana Gill) despair for her, and the alarm bells should really have gone off when Noor meets a photographer at his exhibition and gazes fondly at him while he describes himself as a reporter.
Would directors call themselves writers or doctors, nurses? Never mind. Noor leaps into the open arms of Ayananka (Purab Kohli), only to end up emotionally bruised. Her scam coverage backfires on her too, but not for the reasons described by the movie. Noor intends to upload Malti’s video interview without conducting the basic checks that any rookie reporter would have, including verification of the claims and a chance to allow the accused party to present his point of view.
It’s clear why Noor has been stuck with chasing freaks. The character and the movie get the news gathering process hilariously wrong – best exemplified in the scene in which Noor conducts online research on the crime she is investigating, only to throw up hundreds of articles.
Noor, clearly, isn’t the first reporter to smell a rat, but she is certainly is the first to stick her nose in the wrong place. Defeated by forces larger than her (but actually by her own misunderstanding of journalism), Noor flops down in front of her laptop and records a diatribe about Mumbai’s sorry state. Is that why she takes off for a vacation to London with Saad following her heartbreak?
The source novel made Karachi a vivid backdrop for its lead character’s adventures. Sippy and cinematographer Keiko Nakahara showcase the pretty and the grungy parts of Mumbai without getting their feet dirty. The locations include trendy pubs and restaurants, little-seen areas alongside the docks, and the vertical slum where Malti lives. While Mumbai looks far more interesting than it has in recent movies, it is barely convincing as an inspiration for Noor, let alone as a city worthy of intense reportage.
If you want to do serious journalism, go to Delhi, snarls Noor’s editor Shekhar. He clearly doesn’t get around much either.
Even as the plot slides into pure silliness, Sonakshi Sinha gets stronger. She tries too hard to be a ditz, flopping about and pulling faces, but it’s only after Noor stops behaving like a girl that Sinha becomes convincing. Sinha looks far too seasoned to be playing a greenhorn, but she is good at serious and pensive characters (for instance, in 2013’s Lootera). Her real talent comes into view after her character embraces her adult self.
The sections where Noor handles her heartbreak ring far truer than her journalistic misadventures. Some research into how news gathering actually works might have made Noor a happy balance between the tugs of the heart and the compulsions of the profession. Noor would not have passed Scroll.in’s copy test for sure, but she is a perfectly acceptable romcom heroine, unable to understand where her heart lies until it is spelt out for her.
Noor’s nose for news is weak, but at least she gets the romance beat right. She would make a questionable investigative journalist, but a fine relationship advice columnist.