Lets make it clear, Zaheer Iqbal and Pranutan Bahl's Notebook has absolutely nothing to do with the Ryan Reynold's classic of the same name. If at all it shares anything then it's the romantic genre. Produced by Salman Khan, Ashwin Varde and Murad Khetani, Notebook is an attempt to make a 'feel good' love story with two fresh faces. Pranutan holds the weight of being a descendant of an illustrious acting family - she's the granddaughter of Nutan and her father Mohnish Behl has done multiple films (most of the popular ones with Salman) in the 90s. Zaheer on the other hand is an outsider with no inkling to acting. The fact that Notebook has two new faces does help in giving the narrative a fresh approach.
But does it stay true to its genre and deliver ? Notebook's biggest strength is the fact that it is set against the often underused backdrop of Kashmir. The lush locales captured beautifully set up a canvas that is hard to take your eyes off from. There is something about the beauty of these landscapes that play a large part in building up this sketchy love story. The second best thing about Notebook are its child actors. I am guessing a lot of time and effort has gone into finding these kids and ensuring they fit the bill. The kids in Notebook aren't annoying or over smart, they are just perfect.
The story begins with Zaheer Iqbal playing Kabeer an ex-army officer who joins a remote isolated school as a teacher where he finds a Notebook with messages and sketches made by the previous teacher - Firdaus. He doesn't know how she looks like, but her cryptic lines and personal stories keep him company in an otherwise morose and bleak setting. The kids of the school add a dash of innocence and cuteness to the story. Kabeer struggles to maintain his sanity in a school with kids who don't relate to him. The only solace he finds is in the notebook and words of Firdaus. As the story progresses we also get flashbacks of her time at the school and the interaction with the kids. There is a sense of mystery about how Kabeer and Firdaus' paths will cross.
Director Nitin Kakkar spends a lot of time in setting up Firdaus and Kabeer's storylines. While these work independently, the issue crops up when the film nears its climax. The build up which should have promised a meeting between Firdaus and Kabeer is hijacked by another subplot involving a Kashmiri man and his son. Notwithstanding the lack of zeal in the writing and plot, the main lead does a decent job of giving their characters a sense of believability.
Pranutan looks gorgeous in her wedding scene and has a natural flair for her craft. Her scenes with the kids are a definite highlight. Zaheer has a good screen presence and shows a liking for action scenes. Also his transformation from initially struggling to connect with the kids to developing a relationship with them is well shown. Also the music of Notebook has some hummable tunes with Bumroo being a highlight. Pranutan and Zaheer make for a good pair, we only hope the writing and script gave them some better support.
Notebook works well with its length. It doesn't meander and wraps up in its expected length. Also the film is light and the addition of kids gives it several feel good moments. Notebook makes for good viewing thanks to the freshness of its lead pair Zaheer Iqbal and Pranutan Bahl. Also watch it for the adorable kids.
3.5 out of 5
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