Tag Archives: Notebook

Movie Review: Notebook (2019)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Watch Notebook on Amazon Prime

A reluctant teacher at a remote schoolhouse finds a diary left by his predecessor, leading him to fall in love with the author and the profession of teaching in the charming drama Notebook.

Based on Thailand’s entry for Best Foreign Language film at the 2014 Oscars — The Teacher’s DiaryNotebook sets its story in Kashmir in 2008. Kabir (Zaheer Iqbal) is struggling to readjust to civilian life, following a stint in the army that ended when he inadvertently caused a child’s death. Haunted and directionless, he’s summoned to his ancestral home in Srinagar by his uncle. The elementary school Kabir’s deceased father founded is in danger of closing because it has no teacher, and Kabir agrees to fill in, despite his lack of experience.

The school is a collection of small buildings built on rafts, lashed together and floating on a wide lake. Though the school is six hours from the nearest town and only accessible by boat, it offers the only educational opportunity for children in the region. The gorgeous setting is an ideal place for introspection, but Kabir finds the practicalities hard to handle. There’s no cell network, running water, or electricity. A frog lives in the cistern.

Kabir’s students don’t make his job easy on him, disappointed as they are at the loss of their beloved teacher, Firdaus (Pranutan Bahl). After a disastrous first day, Kabir almost calls it quits, until he finds a diary Firdaus left behind. Her writings and drawings give Kabir insight into his students, and they lead him to fall in love with her — or at least with who he imagines her to be. Yet even as he immerses himself in the lives of his students, the camera often shoots Kabir through windows or reflected in mirrors, while flashbacks of Firdaus feature her fully in frame. The technique symbolizes Kabir’s yet unrealized sense of self and his still-developing connection to the school.

Notebook is whimsical in the best possible ways. There’s the novelty of a love story involving two people who’ve neither met nor seen each other. The school’s isolation forces both Firdaus and Kabir to embrace what’s truly important to them, and in doing so, steers them toward each other. Then there’s the school’s magical setting, floating on a lake covered in lily pads and surrounded by mountains. It’s straight out of a fairy tale.

Notebook released theatrically in the spring of 2019, several months before the Indian government cut off Kashmir’s cell network and internet access (which has been ongoing for over a month at the time of this writing). A boatman who ferries Kabir to the school explains that the unreliable cell phone network only works “when weather is good and peace prevails,” hinting at the region’s long-standing instability.

While the film isn’t political to the point of taking sides, it depicts the suffering of the people who live there. Every character in Notebook is traumatized by violence and death, including the children. Kabir’s undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder points to the fact that soldiers in the region are vulnerable to psychological damage as well. The constant military presence and threat of militant action creates an unhealthy situation for everyone living there.

Director Nitin Kakkar is the right person to tell this touching love story set in a fraught region, giving the main narrative its due while providing thoughtful context on its surroundings. Kakkar showed his capabilities with the 2012 comedy Filmistaan, in which a kidnapped Indian man doesn’t realize he’s been brought to Pakistan because of the strong similarities between both countries and their citizens. Notebook is just as sensitive in the way it stresses its characters’ shared humanity.

Iqbal and Bahl acquit themselves well in their film debuts, giving Kabir and Firdaus enough warmth to sustain Notebook‘s romantic feel, even though their characters spend little time together on-screen. They help to create a movie that is sweet yet substantial, and gorgeous to look at.


Streaming Video News: May 31, 2019

I updated my list of Bollywood movies on Netflix with the premiere of the Hindi film Chopsticks, starring Karwaan‘s Mithila Parkar as a woman who enlists the help of a conman (Abhay Deol) to find her stolen car. Yesterday, Netflix added the March Hindi release Mere Pyare Prime Minister to its streaming catalog.

Three Indian titles expire tomorrow from the Netflix catalog: Delhi in a Day, Firaaq, and Makkhi.

I also updated my list of Bollywood movies on Amazon Prime with dozens of Indian films added in the last week. Most notable among them is the 2019 Hindi romance Notebook, produced by Salman Khan Films. Other 2019 films added in the last week include:

For everything else new on Amazon Prime and Netflix — Bollywood or not — check Instant Watcher.

Junglee is now on Hotstar. I really enjoyed this family-friendly martial arts flick. It disappeared from theaters quickly this spring, so now’s a great time to catch up with it on streaming.

Bollywood Box Office: March 29-31, 2019

Brief North American Bollywood box office update for the weekend of March 29-31, 2019. Here’s why the weekend’s two new releases — Junglee and Notebook — won’t get a second week in many theaters:

  • Junglee: $45,221 from 79 theaters; $572 average
  • Notebook: $18,877 from 39 theaters; $484 average

My friend who works at my local theater said that, over the weekend, the staff had to tell quite a few disappointed customers that, no, they weren’t running a special engagement of the Ryan Gosling film The Notebook.

Other Bollywood movies still in North American theaters:

  • Kesari: Week 2; $323,533 from 154 theaters; $2,101 average; $1,600,643 total
  • Badla: Week 4; $75,736 from 58 theaters; $1,306 average; $1,861,000 total
  • Gully Boy: Week 7; $9,587 from 12 theaters; $799 average; $5,407,188 total
  • Luka Chuppi: Week 5; $2,802 from seven theaters; $400 average; $1,014,967 total

Sources: Bollywood Hungama and Box Office Mojo

Opening March 29: Junglee and Notebook

Two new Hindi films hit Chicago area theaters on March 29, 2019. Martial artist Vidyut Jammwal plays a veterinarian fighting elephant poachers in the action movie Junglee, directed by American filmmaker Chuck Russell, who previously directed Dwayne Johnson in The Scorpion King and Jim Carrey in The Mask.

Junglee opens Friday at the AMC River East 21 in Chicago, MovieMax Cinemas in Niles, AMC South Barrington 24 in South Barrington, and Regal Cantera Stadium 17 in Warrenville. It has a listed runtime of 1 hr. 55 min.

Also new this weekend is the Salman Khan Films production Notebook, starring newcomers Pranutan Bahl and Zaheer Iqbal.

Notebook opens Friday at MovieMax, South Barrington 24, and Cantera 17. It has a listed runtime of 1 hr. 52 min.

Opening in wide release across Chicagoland this weekend is Hotel Mumbai, an English-language fictional retelling of the 26/11 terror attacks starring Dev Patel, Anupam Kher, and Armie Hammer. It sounds problematic.

Kesari carries over at the River East 21, MovieMax, South Barrington 24, Cantera 17, AMC Niles 12 in Niles, AMC Rosemont 18 in Rosemont, and AMC Woodridge 18 in Woodridge.

Badla gets a fourth week at MovieMax, South Barrington 24, Cantera 17, and AMC Naperville 16 in Naperville.

MovieMax holds over Luka Chuppi, the South Barrington carries over Total Dhamaal, and the Woodridge 18 hangs on to Gully Boy.

Other Indian movies showing in Chicago area theaters (all films have English subtitles):