: Purav Bhandare, Sarika, Birbal the Donkey
Direction: Santosh Sivan
Stretching snowscapes, flickering lives that could be extinguished at any moment, a fatherless family and the adorable kid who wants to bring his pet donkey back home – these are just some of the elements of Santosh Sivan’s Tahaan which deals with innocence versus violence in the valley.
Narrated from the point of view of the child, throughout, strife-torn Kashmir is his magical playground till he loses his pet, always standing there haplessly. Boy Tahaan travels across perilous terrain, making the viewer hope desperately that the boy is reunited with his buddy. Whomever he encounters -- be it a moneylender (Rahul Khanna, very miscast), a fruit trader, a lovelorn Romeo or an older kid who has his own agenda -- the child trusts them like you’d trust a neighbour.
Quite a few points of the screenplay are contrived though. Like chucking a grenade into a conveniently available stream, mum Sarika being speechless and father dear stepping out of detention in the nick of time. None of these count though in the face of the enterprise’s purity of purpose – like the Iranian films of the 1990s --and its poetic execution.
Meant as much for adults as well as kids, Tahaan has two other major strengths. An absolutely endearing performance by Purav Bhandare in the eponymous role. And the genius cinematography of director Santosh Sivan. Every frame is painterly. It’s meant for everyone who has the heart for compassionate and visually staggering cinema.