Notebook movie cast: Zaheer Iqbal, Pranutan Bahl
Notebook movie director: Nitin Kakkar
Notebook movie rating: One and a half stars
Suddenly, Kashmir seems to be Bollywood’s du jour flavour for youthful romances. Or should we say, it’s a return: Kashmir used to be the go-to place for heroes to slide down snowy slopes and heroines to pretend to be fine and dandy in their thin chiffons, as they slid right alongside. For many years, the beautiful valleys and slopes had vanished from our screens. Now they are back. A few months back there was Laila Majnu. Now comes Notebook, in which two debutants, Zaheer Iqbal and Pranutan Bahl search for their true love.
The Kashmir in Notebook, is, for the most part, as pristine and as gorgeous as it has ever been. Militants and insurgency and the contentious presence of the armed forces are kept at a minimum, shown in only scant, sanitized glimpses: the rest of it is focused on Kabir (Iqbal) and Firdaus (Bahl) and their relationship, which blossoms through a notebook, in which Hindi is written in English.
There are other inexplicable things. A floating school in the middle of nowhere exists for no better reason than to get two hearts aflutter: seven adorable kids come and go, learning numbers and alphabets from people who look as if they have never been teachers in their life.
Cute is all right, up to a point, but you can’t do cutesy for an entire film. The insistence on wagging a finger at a father who refuses to let his child go to school is never fully explained. It looks as if the situation exists only for a character to be able to say (with regard to youngsters who are kept out of the education system by their ill-advised elders): ‘training le kar galat raaste pe jaate dekha hai’.
Love as a buffer against militancy? What a good idea. But not in this airy-fairy, ineffective way that Notebook propounds: the performances by the newbies, with Iqbal faring just a trifle better than Bahl (with an enviable acting lineage from Shobhana Samarth to Nutan to Mohnish) is as two dimensional as the plot.