Notebook movie review: Kashmir is the real attraction of Zaheer Iqbal, Pranutan Bahl film
Cast: Zaheer Iqbal, Pranutan Bahl
Director: Nitin Kakkar
There are perhaps only a few places on Earth that are as achingly beautiful as Kashmir -- the Dal Lake with boats snaking around, conifers calling out to the sky and a history that has blood splattered all over it. Set in the Valley, this is how Notebook begins as well -- with the death of an innocent, all seen through the haze of a dream.
The film establishes its ambitions early on -- it touches upon displacement and death, terror and a generation forced to live under the shadow of guns. However, it is in the execution that it falters; having touched on these important subjects, it rushes off to tie it all neatly into a romance. Notebook is just not the film that can carry it all off; it splutters and the effort becomes obvious.
Zaheer Iqbal’s Kabir Kaul is a displaced Kashmiri Pandit who returns to his roots, and to a school his father once established. A misfit anywhere but in Kashmir - his home, Kabir is a replacement for Pranutan Bahl’s Firdaus who left the post at the school a while back.
His guide and only friend at this school, set in the middle of nowhere, is a diary kept by Firdaus. As he deals with frogs in Sintex water tanks and a handful of apple-cheeked pupils who refuse to warm up to him, Firdaus’ story of finding herself runs parallel to his narrative.
He falls in love with Firdaus without ever meeting her - quite a departure from the millennial love stories Bollywood regularly churns out - only to find out that she is getting married in a few days. The two share hardly a few frames together as the notes exchanged through the diary are their only communication. A fundamentalist father who wants to push his academically brilliant son into militancy is how Kashmir’s political situation is reflected in the film.
The film’s two leads being launched by Salman Khan hardly get any time together; the romance is unremarkable but a gorgeous Kashmir and a gaggle of children are used intelligently by director Nitin Kakkar. After last year’s Laila Majnu, Notebook has again been shot entirely in Kashmir and cinematographer Manoj Kumar Khatoi has ensured every frame is bursting with beauty. The visual portrayal will stay with you long after you forget the sub-par love story.
After Loveyatri and Hero, the best thing we can say about Salman Khan’s latest protege, Zaheer Iqbal is that he is not Aayush Sharma. He may have acquitted himself in a masala movie but the epistolary romance is beyond his ken. Pranutan offers a restrained performance but rough edges do creep in.
Inspired by the Thai film, My Teacher’s Diary, the film begins well but starts slackening in pace. A good idea, it is the execution that falters. The second half especially could have done with some editing and better narrative tools than convenient twists that you can see coming a mile off. Notebook’s music - the soul of any romance that aims to launch newcomers -is its biggest letdown.
It is perhaps the sign of times that you begin by rooting for these lovers who still believe in pure love but want them to get on with it somewhere around interval. Yes, you found the diary. Yes, you have fallen in love. Now, find a computer, send her a Facebook request and meet at a Cafe Coffee Day (CCD) closest to you! Our patience is not what it used to be.
Author tweets @JSB17
Follow @htshowbiz for more