For Notebook's Zaheer Iqbal and Pranutan Bahl, love at first sight isn't what tingles them. For them, it's love through the first alphabets. Nothing could be more charming in an age where rejection is as easy as swiping left.
Amid a picturesque Kashmir stands a tiny school; alone and barely breathing. Its life lives in the few children, still turning up, memorising tables and running around the old, wooden benches. Kabir (Zaheer), a native of Kashmir and a former army guy, turns up as a teacher to save the school, his father's dream. The school is still carrying the presence, the smell and the little, leftover memories of Firdaus (Pranutan), the children's favourite teacher. Kabir, initially bewildered with the children and definitely not a pro in teaching, discovers a notebook. There begins the toil of his imagination; an envision of what the true Firdaus could be, from the notebook.
Firdaus, a young, pretty woman with her visions and morales, at the right place, didn't have it easy when she decided to move to a barely accessible school in the middle of a vast lake with even the minimum privileges absent. But the intentions that drove her there are barely understood or appreciated. That is until her notebook reaches Kabir.
The love in Nitin Kakkar's love story creeps in so subtly that we almost do not see it. You don't want the done and dusted (and colour corrected) sunsets and overly emotive conversations; and you are covered. Zaheer and Pranutan's proximity consumes the least duration, therefore letting other subplots breathe.
Although mild, but Notebook's take on Kashmiri children, their access to education as well as the cruciality of it is important. Zaheer and Pranutan's contiguity, refreshingly, is an outcome of they looking at the world through similar lenses. And that's how, perhaps, it is supposed to be all the time. What strengthens it is their mutual affection for a bunch of kids and the unconditional love that they shower.
Pranutan, the girl next door, puts up an average show. But Zaheer, another newcomer, impresses. The good looks are just brownie points. What matters is that he acts and emotes. Dare we say, he was deserving of being launched by Salman Khan; and he will probably make a mark, unlike the clan that bagged their debuts under big banners but then sank without a trace. Read between the lines!
Manoj Kumar Khatoi's cinematography is one of the reasons why this film is likeable. Khatoi's capture of Kashmir is delicious. It leaves you longing for more. Nitin Kakkar's direction is neat, with room for more improvisation.
If you can apply the 'go with the flow' formula and if you can savour little moments of love, Notebook will be a decent watch for you!