Hindi Reviews

Notebook Review: Boy Meets Girl But Problematic Saviour Politics Kills The Cute

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Director: Nitin Kakkar

Cast: Pranutan Bahl, Zaheer Iqbal

May contain spoilers.

In Notebook, directed by Nitin Kakkar, Kabir Kaul (Zaheer Iqbal) is an earnest young Indian – an ex-Army man, the son of a Kashmiri Pandit teacher, and currently well-meaning tutor of Muslim kids – who will save Kashmir. He will do this despite the best efforts of locals who want azaadi, even if it means they beat their little kids into hating school. And, we are to believe this because another Kashmiri Muslim – a young woman Firdous (Pranutan Bahl) whose father was a seeker of azaadi is in love with the earnest young man and knows in her heart that the militant path is wrong.

But Kabir will first have to overcome his trauma, revive the school his father built, convince the young woman that he is indeed the best man she can get, and sing a song or two.

***

Notebook also stars the beautiful landscape of Kashmir, and a bunch of very cute, lovely kids. The film is a remake of the Thai film Teacher’s Diary and has been adapted by Darab Farooqi, with dialogues by Payal Ashar and Shabir Ashmi. Notebook is produced by Salman Khan Films.

***

The core of Notebook is the meetcute of young lovers Kabir and Firdous. This is achieved through the device of a personal diary. Kabir Kaul gets a call from his uncle asking him to come back to his father’s old house and be closer to his only family. And, Kabir does, because he has nothing else going on: he’s left the Army after a tragic accident that resulted in a young boy’s death. And here, he chooses to go back to the school his father built, as a teacher this time. Because when kids don’t go to school, the school goes to the kids. And here, he spots the diary.

Firdous is a teacher at a remote floating school in the middle of Kashmir. She’s here because the authorities believe she’s a bad influence on young kids – owing to the fact that she has a tattoo on her hand. And so, this punishment post in perhaps the most beautiful, picturesque location in Kashmir. Here she has to live and teach seven young children across various grades. Meanwhile, she is apparently in love with a young bearded man – Junaid, who has expectations of how his lover needs to be, and has a tendency to ban a bunch of things.  Including the tattoo, her work as a teacher, and getting an infection. But, she goes ahead and does all these things anyway. And so they break up, only for him to come back and ask for forgiveness and get back together.

And, because this is Kashmir, there’s a floating corpse in the lake and this freaks two of the kids and Junaid, who insists Firdous return to the city with him. She refuses, so they break up once more.

All this is told as a flashback as Kabir reads a private diary, even while trying to forget his past and teach kids in the present. As he reads Firdous’s diary, he falls in love with her. Each new page pushes him over further. We know he is single, because in an earlier scene, he sees his girlfriend cheating on him with another man, one who has also taken his bike and cigarettes. And so, he fights the man, dumps the girlfriend, and takes back his bike. Because, as the Kashmiri auto-guy says (echoing Kamal Haasan from Sigappu Rojakkal) “these women are all like this only”.

More flashback, in which Firdous figures out Junaid is cheating on her and has got another woman pregnant. She finds out just in time before her wedding with him, runs away and returns to the school. There, she spots that Kabir has not only read her diary, but has also added in his notes, and professed love to her. She slowly gets used to the idea of loving this man – especially after she lands up at his house, and realises it was his father who built the school she loves so much.

And just in time, everything and everybody come together, and Kabir and Firdous meet each other. And, Kabir convinces a young boy to not shoot his father, the very father who’s beating Kabir senseless.

We roll to a sweet end.

*****

Pranutan Bahl as Firdous is the film’s redemption. She’s beautiful, pulls off a near-perfect coy/sweet smile, has some motivation, energy, and a will of her own. It’s a tiny bit of a pity that this is used to sort of throw blame at the Kashmiri people for wanting to determine their own lives and future.

Zaheer Iqbal as Kabir looks, smiles, and dances like a Telugu hero, and is quite charming. The Firdous-Kabir romance – if that was all the film had been – would have been lovely against Kashmir’s mountains and lakes. But then, every hero needs a backstory and we get Kabir’s – young boys play cricket, and little Kabir hits a nice shot. But a bunch of older boys descends, and the ground clears. But Kabir wants to play because he got there first and he isn’t done yet. And so, he stands his ground even as the older boy rains blows on him. All fine, except the older boys are obviously, intentionally Muslim. It’s there in their clothes, flowing kurtas and kaftans, and the younger boys, in T-shirts, shorts, shirts and woolen sweaters, are obviously Hindus. And so, we are supposed to feel pity for the Hindus who have been pushed out of the land that “rightfully” belongs to them. In other words, this is the perfect mainland Indian propaganda, one that generations of Indians have grown up believing in and what has been reinforced via WhatsApp and Facebook.

Therefore, it is only just – and cinematically correct – that the older Kabir stands his ground when being beaten, and convinces a son to not make the mistakes of his father.

*****

The Notebook review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.

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