review: Wow visuals, wooden leads!

Kashmir soulful beauty seems so far removed from its volatile reality; it's easy to believe a quiet love story could blossom here between an individual and a stranger's diary.

Director Nitin Kakkar's official adaptation of the Thai drama, Teacher's Diary retains the serene, meditative ambience of its source, but colours it, if only mildly, in the aftermath of a region's longstanding conflict.

Exodus of Kashmiri Hindus, rampant militancy, sight of army men strewn all across Srinagar and locals lamenting the lack of upbeat 'mausam' and 'mahaul' mark the proceedings in a manner that depicts them as more damaged than destructive. It's only natural it opens with a character waking up from a bad dream.

Kabir (Zaheer Iqbal) is a soldier who quits the army and takes up a teacher's post in a remotely located, rickety houseboat school. A handful of apple-cheeked students, of varying age and academic requirements, show up and the customary 'starting off on the wrong foot' ensues until all's well that ends well.

The new teacher discovers Firdaus (Pranutan Bahl), his predecessor's diary -- more like a tween's autograph book full of cute doodles and poems -- and is drawn to her so-called original thoughts. Especially the bit about darkness cannot drive darkness. Clearly, neither has ever heard of Martin Luther King Jr.

Considering the duo don't meet for most part, Notebook abruptly veers off to squeeze in an awkward comic track featuring Kabir's cheating girlfriend or forewarn us about the growing incompatibility between Firdaus and her fiancé. The coast is clear, but do we care?

A little charm from the debuting actors and Notebook would actually be worthy of note. Too bad they're stiff as stick.

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