There is a Sutti Velu joke in a movie from the '80s, in which his character works in the film industry. When asked what his role is, he says he is the "Ka-scree-he-ma-pa-da" for the film. When asked to elaborate, he says, "Katha, neney. Screenplay, neney. Hero, neney. Maatalu, neney. Paatalu, neney. Darsakathvamu, neney."
Going by that algorithm, Chandu is the "Ka-scree-ma-da" of Notebook.
Notebook seems to be a variation on the young love doomed theme that was somewhat tangentially a part of Chandu's own 10th Class
, and, more recently, Abaddam
. Ramachandra Raju is an almost feudal landlord who rules over his family and his workers in a stern, paternal way. Caste and community are an important part of his moral compass. Mahalakshmi is his wife, and they have an apple-of-the-eye daughter, Nandini (Gayatri).
When Raju (Rajiv), the young son of one of Mahalakshmi's friends, is orphaned, he is taken into the zamindar's household, as a playmate and guardian to Nandini. Raju lives in a hut separate from the bungalow, but is in and out of the house all the time, and soon becomes an integral and indispensable part of Ramachandra Raju's staff.
Raju and Nandini grow up together, sharing each other's joys and sorrows. Flash forward to the teen years. Both children enter that "10th Class" phase of life, where they're tormenting each other but are actually very fond of each other etc. etc. Soon, in a not-very-subtle cinematic sequence, Nandini "grows up" and enters the langa voni
Suddenly (a bit too suddenly, if you ask us), she discovers that she has other, less kindergarten-ish, and more corporeal feelings for Raju. She expends a lot of her time (and yours) and effort (thankfully, mostly hers) in trying to communicate this to the apparently 'tubelight' brain Raju, who just doesn't seem to get what's going on.
Even after Nandini tells Raju about her true feelings, he dissuades her, citing the difference in their social and economic status, and her father's attitude towards cross-caste marriages.
The inevitable drama plays itself out on screen, and ends in a fairly Romeo & Juliet manner. Oh, by the way, the notebook in the title of the movie has a fairly minimal role to play. It is a diary in which Nandini confides, and is used as a device to reveal the story of the love between her and Raju, after it's all over.
Notebook is unusual in that, 5 minutes into the movie, you can predict 80% of what will happen, including the ending (so no, you did not need a spoiler warning above). And if you are going to give away the plot right at the beginning, you had better make a truly exceptional film if you want to keep your audience interested in the rest of it.
There lies the rub - the film simply isn't compelling enough for you to give it your undivided attention over two and a half hours. There is a comedy track involving Raju's friends which is passable when it's not plain innuendo and double meaning. The music may hold its own against other soundtracks, but again it isn't going to make waves.
For a change, the male lead Rajiv doesn't need a palette of moods and emotions to be Raju. In contrast, Gayatri has to portray a character who grows from girlhood into womanhood, and whose feelings oscillate between affection, frustration, passion, tenderness and resignation. She does this with not inconsiderable aplomb for a debutant, even if it is a bit rough at the edges.
Ultimately, Notebook does manage to convey that the director/storyteller has something quite personal and important to tell his audience, but he loses his way somewhat in the narration. After all, it isn't every year that a Marocharitra or a Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak comes along. Notebook clearly isn't their counterpart for the 2000s.