Notebook is the 2006 Malayalam film that depicts the life of three friends whose life make a dramatic turn one day. When it was released, the box office did not see an immediate reaction, overtime the popularity of the film grew and it received positive critical and box office response. Soon, it received the cult status among teens and college going students.
Sarah Elizabeth (Roma Asrani), Pooja Krishna (Parvathy) and Sreedevi Swaminathan (Mariya Roy) are three inseparable friends who lead a happy and adventurous life in Lord’s Academy, a popular school in Ooty.
Sarah is a bold girl who is loyal, helpful and truthful in nature. She stands up for her friends when necessary and because of her outspoken nature, she finds herself in trouble a lot. She didn’t even hesitate before raising her voice while talking to the Principal who dismissed a boy (Mejo Joseph) who is falsely accused of cheating during the exams. Pooja is more practical and straightforward. She is the clever decision maker of the group, at the same time she wouldn’t lose an opportunity to stay out of trouble or to save her reputation. Sreedevi is an innocent naive girl who always hesitate before making a bold move. Sreedevi falls in love with a boy named Suraj (Skanda Ashok). During an excursion, when they are left alone, Suraj and Sreedevi have sex leading to her pregnancy. Except for Sarah and Pooja, Sreedevi insists on keeping this a secret even from Suraj. The rest of the movie deals with how Sarah and Pooja try to help Sreedevi without letting anyone else know about it.
Notebook is one of the best directed Malayalam films released in late 2000s. From Bobby-Sanjay, successful screenwriting duo who brought us their ideas like “ente veedu appunteyum”,”traffic”, “ayaalum njanum thammil”, “how old are you” etc. Rosshan Andrews executed his imagination with the help of intense performances, fast pacing and upto the mark structuring.
Amidst the action flicks, slapstick comedy and masala romance, Rosshan Andrews made a valiant move by doing a film based on a subject that is both a taboo and highly relevant, teenage pregnancy and consequences. Although, the first half saw dragging where the romance between Suraj and Sreedevi is stretched along with a totally unnecessary song sequence, the second half created a whole new atmosphere in the their lives. The movie was criticized a lot for the initial stretch but as far as the topic and overall staging is concerned, it is necessary. Maybe the comic sequences could have been avoided a bit, like the “whisper” scene, but then we are immersed into school campus life. We see the normal life of these children where they get punishments for making mistakes, bicker about the quality of college food and the exams where they keep everything till the last minute. But their life changes along with the circumstances and are in crossroads of right and wrong. Sarah and Pooja are forced to take daring decisions and the taboo forced them to remain silent; premarital sex and pregnancy leads to immense scrutinization and taunting from the society. That’s where the topic needs discussion. The lack of knowledge regarding sex can lead to bad consequences and it is well highlighted in this film.
Both Roma and Parvathy delivered excellent performances in their respective roles. I despised Roma’s performances in many other films as she is stereotyped and is typecast as a bubbly girl or brat. In notebook, she delivered an exemplary performance and her subsequent popularity is the proof that good character roles followed by adept performance can earn popularity. Sarah is a vibrant girl with a bold attitude and Roma embodied that persona with ease. The scenes where she is helpless as her defense mechanisms are down, are worth mentioning as we will feel sorry and sympathize with her. Roma deserved every single accolodate she received for her performance, I just wish that she did more good roles than her stereotyped “loud” bubbly characters. Parvathy, who is currently having a rocking career with back to back successes like Bangalore days, ennu ninte Moideen and Charlie, is superb and talents are visible in her effortless portrayal. Mariya is not upto the mark but for her character her acting is ok. Skanda Ashok had a bright presence but it diminished as the movie went on. Rosshan Andrews brought out good performances from all the actors with proper camera placements; by using close ups, long shots and moving shots when necessary, followed by natural dialogues and pacing.
The combination of cinematography and editing is done well enough to capture the emotions and intensity of the scenario, especially in the second half where the girls are in a panic situation. The pinnacle is that there weren’t poetry or long dialogues, instead the emotions are conveyed with visuals and expressions. Mejo Joseph composed haunting songs best being “as we all know..”. The background score is composed by talented Gopi Sundar who is known for making the scene look impressive with his virtuoso. Unlike the typical Malayalam film culture, the music dissolves with the scenes and creates the emotional spectrum.
Notebook is a must watch Malayalam film. It is said to be a must watch for girls and parents with daughters due to the intensity of the subject. What really needs to be questioned is the way premarital sex is scrutinized and on how it is dealt by the society, only then girls (in a situation like this) will be able communicate freely with their parents. An outstanding craft by Rosshan Andrews and team.
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