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‘Noor’ film review: An upscale ‘Page 3’ with the same cockeyed view of journalism

In the adaptation of ‘Karachi, You’re Killing Me!’, Sonakshi Sinha plays a reporter who battles heartbreak while trying to investigate a scam.

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.

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Noor.

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?

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The song Uff Yeh Noor.

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.

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.