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Nitin Kakkar: Brave call on Salman Khan’s part to make a film like Notebook

Starring debutants Pranutan Bahl and Zaheer Iqbal, Notebook has been helmed by National Award-winning director Nitin Kakkar. Produced by Salman Khan Films, the film releases on March 29.

Salman Khan’s upcoming production venture Notebook is all set for its big release on March 29. Starring newcomers Pranutan Bahl and Zaheer Iqbal, the film has been helmed by National Award-winning director Nitin Kakkar.

Ahead of the release, the Mitron director sat down for an exclusive interview with indianexpress.com.

Here are excerpts from the conversation.

In a recent interview, you said that you are an ordinary director, telling extraordinary stories. What is extraordinary about Notebook?

Everything! To begin with, it has the kind of Kashmir that has not been shown for a long time. It is not a run-of-the-mill love story. Usually, romantic tales are based on the Romeo-Juliet format, but this is a very different concept. The cast is absolutely fresh. The world is totally new.

The film is based on the Teacher’s Diary. What were the challenges of adapting it for the Indian audience?

Honestly, the core might be the same but both films are very different. You cannot tell the story of Thailand in Kashmir. The sensitivity is very desi. It has a unique perspective.

All your films present locations as a character. Why did you decide to base Notebook in Kashmir?

Kashmir is not the way it is projected publically. We have tried to inculcate the human perspective and bring out the real characters. As city people, a two-day curfew would shake us up. They have been facing that for years. And tell me, who likes terrorism? Our film is not political, but yes, the current happenings in the state have an effect on the characters.

You seem to have a penchant for newcomers. Tell us more about your experience of working with Pranutan and Zaheer.

I feel it is always great to work with them. It is their first film and they are super excited. They give the project their everything. But yes, it is also a huge responsibility. As a director, you wouldn’t want anyone to point fingers at their performances.

Coming to Zaheer and Pranutan, I think they are very mature for their age. It was a brave choice to pick an unconventional script like this for their first film. They both have great heads on their shoulders. They are passionate, positive, hungry and don’t want to give up. I really don’t know what they learned from me, but I did learn a lot. I really wish them a lot of love and hope they get some really great scripts and directors next.

You have said that you did not know Pranutan is Mohnish Bahl’s daughter before you signed her. When you did get to know, did it make you conscious of making it work with her?

I just took that as added information about my heroine. It did not pressure me, but I did feel a bit responsible. She is, after all, the granddaughter of Nutan. I think I will just go back to my answer, I shouldn’t work with newcomers anymore. It does make you a lot responsible about them (laughs).

Talking about responsibility, how was it having Salman Khan as a producer?

As a producer, he is very welcoming if he believes in you and your space. It is a brave call on his part to make a film like Notebook. To even think about launching two newcomers with this script and then giving it to me, it is just great. I sometimes felt like pinching myself to believe I am discussing my film with him. It has been a long journey from Filmistaan to directing an SKF film. I really hope I stood up to his expectations and managed to do what the film needed.

After an SKF film, you have Jawani Jaaneman with Saif Ali Khan. Do you feel you have arrived in the industry?

Not at all. I still have a long way to go. I don’t think people still know me. It is a privilege to work with Salman and Saif but I am in no La la land. I just hope such opportunities keep coming. Making a good film remains the goal, that’s what gives me the biggest high.

And what about a commercially successful film?

I think the line between commercial and content-driven cinema has really blurred. I always believe films don’t fail, budgets fail. If you recover your cost, you have a successful film in hand. With Notebook, I was very clear that we will not make an expensive film. It would then put the actors under a lot of pressure. It is a great time for the industry as we have all sorts of films doing well.

Mission Kashmir song “Bumbro” was recreated in Notebook. Do you feel the trend is an easy way to gain popularity for the film’s music?

I have no yardstick to judge what is right or wrong. It is an individual’s choice. As for us, our song “Bumro Bumro” is adapted from the original folk song. The kids are all Kashmiri and they feature in the song. We included it because we wanted to get a traditional flavour.

Notebook will release on March 29.

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