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Review: Notebook

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Even though Udayananu Thaaram was a hit , we were not very impressed by Roshan Andrews first movie. For starters, it had the original script by Steve Martin’s Bowfinger to build upon. Then our brilliant scriptwriter, Srinivasan, who has many original scripts to his credit chose to add the usual Dasan-Vijayan routine to adapt it. The movie had a critical look at the happenings behind the camera and the personal jabs at the eccentricities of the superstars had us laughing since the last time we heard it was in Harikrishnans.

Burdened with the success of Udayananu Tharam, expectations were high from director Rosshan Andrews. This time the script by Bobby and Sanjay was an original one and not “inspired” in Priyadarshan style. There have been movies which have dealt with the teenage adventures of boys, like Sethumadhavan’s Venal Kinavukal based on M T Vasudevan Nair’s script, but so far we have not seen movies told from the point of view of teenage girls. Roshan has to be commended for picking up a topic which has not been dealt with the seriousness it deserves.

Notebook turns out to be an interesting movie, mainly from the interval to about the point Suresh Gopi makes a guest appearance which is about 45 minutes later. It takes the whole of the first half to reach the first plot point, which is that one of the girls, Sridevi, gets pregnant during a romantic rendezvous during a school picnic. Till then the script writers entertain us with the happenings in a school whose locale looks like one of those 7 Mega Pixel photos on Flickr.

The line in the story would have read “Boy and Girl fall in love”, but stretching it to the entire first half was, lets say a stretch. To fill the time, we get to see the kids running around singing couple of songs, which we guess is mandatory in such schools. Such transgressions can be forgiven for these techniques are used by veterans like Sathyan Anthikkad too when the story line is as thin as angel hair pasta.

There is an a lengthy episode involving a student, Feroze, who is interested in music and is expelled from the school for suddenly scoring good grades. Feroze, played by Mejo Joseph who is also Roshan’s brother-in-law, disappears somewhere in the middle of the first half never to be seen again and makes a five second appearance in the end as a successful musician. If the incident was to tell us that the school gives importance to academics, then it was redundant as it is obvious in various conversations among students.

The girl Sridevi (Maria) falls in love with the boy Suraj Menon (Suraj) in a most unique way not seen in Indian movie before. Facing a feminine emergency in the Chemistry lab, Sridevi’s friends, Sarah Elizabeth (Roma) and Pooja Krishnan (Parvathy) send Suraj to buy sanitary napkins from the store. Sridevi comes to know about this and before you close your wide open mouth, they are in love.

It is when Sridevi finds out that she is pregnant that the script really takes off. Of the three, Sridevi was the timid one, scared of almost everyone and everything and when she gets to know this, she is devastated The kids are really confused on future course of action as they all live in boarding school where their busy parents have dumped them. .

A tight script at this point captures their dilemma and some excellent acting and direction really brings into focus the tense situation. Since they are isolated from their parents and also scared to talk to them, they discuss the issues among themselves and have to make some tough decisions. At the same time they have to act normal in school.

The decisions they make causes more agony than expected resulting in Sridevi’s death and all their lives take unpleasant turns. The school, represented by their strict principal nick named Dracula, wants to hush the matter and takes the decision of expelling Sarah, who is identified as the main conspirator. It is at this point, that Brigadier Alexander (Suresh Gopi), Sarah’s father makes his guest appearance and gives one of those Bharatchandran IPS dialogue.

Since Dracula has been portrayed as evil, right from the begriming, this verbal assault by Alexander is a highlight of the movie. Alexander, who we had heard as a bad parent from Sarah’s previous references is suddenly this loving parent and he does not question what his daughter has done. Instead she is fisked off and to join “the best school” in India.

The script writers Bobby and Sanjay then decide to do some character development on Alexander. There is a scene where he rushes to the airport with Sarah, but he is late and he pleads with the lady at the counter to let him on the flight. Suraj who did not know about this pregnancy issue meets Sridevi’s parents and they are forgiving knowing that he impregnated their daughter. If she had such forgiving parents why was she scared to talk to them?

One important point in screenplay writing is to write the ending first and then proceed backward to the beginning. Here it looks like Bobby and Sanjay had a nice theme, but did not know how to end it. The buildup in the middle finally fails to convey any message or any moral lessons. They concentrated on the three girls, left out others and then started relying on the ignored characters for some balance. Towards the end, the script looks like a blind man trying to find the exit.

Mani Ratnam once mentioned in an interview that he does not have answers to all the issues he brings in his movies. So he leaves it ambiguous, just to disturb the mind of the viewers. This movie could have left it like that, like the ending of Achanurangatha Veedu, but instead it tried to provide a closure, which in turn nullified the shock the second half produced.

Roshan, the director has filmed the movie well, extracting great performances out of newcomers. There is one scene where Pooja after betraying Sarah comes to her room. Instead of unloading couple of pages of dialogue on Pooja, Sarah looks at her with anger, shakes her and walks away which had more impact, than if dialogue were present.

Roma, who played Sarah stands out with an exceptional performance. It is she who gets to display a wide range of emotions, right from a prankster to the one who gets blamed, betrayed and gets a chance to redeem herself. Since we have not seen them before Parvathi, Maria and Suraj are believable as the characters they play. While Diwakar’s camera captures picture post card frames, Mejo Joseph’s tunes are excellent, with our favorite song being Iniyum Maunamo

This interesting concept could have been riveting had the script started about 20 minutes before interval and ended with the appearance of Suresh Gopi. That would give only about 65 minutes of script, but it could have been expanded with the added role of parents, since it is for them the message of the movie really is. We hope next time Roshan pays more attention to the script, cuts out extra fat and makes a movie of yet another interesting topic.

Related posts:

  1. Review Roundup: Notebook
  2. Preview: Notebook
  3. A Page from Mejo’s Musical Notebook
  4. Review: The Tiger
  5. Review: Manichitrathazhu

10 Comments

  1. Meju makes a fleeting appearance at the end in the airport, when Roma is returning to Ooty we find Mejo surrounded by fans seeking his autograph.

  2. “Feroze, played by Mejo Joseph who is also Roshan’s brother-in-law, disappears somewhere in the middle of the first half never to be seen again. ”

    Wrong. In the airport scene towards the end, Sara spots him as being welcomed by a group of people and that a reference is made that Feroze has made it big as a music director – which implies that even school drop-outs also shine in life

    One good lesson which has been coneyed through the movie is for teenagers to have an open talk with their parents so that they can guide them through the tumultous phase of their life

    A very good movie overall considering that it had a lot of new-comers

  3. mahesh, narayanan, thanks for correcting us. the review will be updated.

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  5. Narayanan,

    The message is also to parents, to be kind and understanding of kids and to their age. Even”sara” is making it clear in her dialogue.

  6. ‘This movie could have left it like that, like the ending of Achanurangatha Veedu, but instead it tried to provide a closure, which in turn nullified the shock the second half produced.’

    You are probably suggesting that the job of a movie director is to showcase human emotions and not to create a solution or pass judgement on them.

    Well, the job of a movie reviewer is to review a movie and not to advocate a particular ‘technique’.

  7. I haven’t seen this film but a film with
    some what of a similar theme is “Utharam” (1989).
    Well, they are not completely the same, this
    one is more of a investigating type movie which
    focuses on a female student studying in Ooty.

    “Utharam” is by V.K. Pavithran, written by MT,
    based on Daphne du Maurier’s work.

  8. James,

    Utharam has nothing in common with Notebook except that both are Malayalam movies. Utharam was a class of its own, a great piece of work by MT and superb. Notebook, for me, was a waste of money and time. I did not get any message from it unlike many others who have loved it.

  9. Oh I see, I haven’t seen NB anyway.

    I assumed it probably did have some similarities
    in some places.

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