Tahaan: Stark, beautiful but with character flaws
When the credits roll at the end of Santosh Sivan’s “Tahaan” , there is a disclaimer which reads ‘This is a fable with fictitious people and non fictitious incidents,” or something to that effect.
Characters come and go without much explanation, some plots (like the Kashmiri Pandit in a ruined house) are inserted without any reason, and there is a lot left unsaid.
This one is definitely not for those who expect straightforward movies. But if your movie palate can take some variety, then “Tahaan” is worth a watch.
The protagonist, a feisty eight-year-old named Tahaan and his donkey Birbal are inseparable.
Even though his father has been missing for years and his family lives hand-to-mouth, Tahaan is a happy child, mainly due to Birbal’s company.
Circumstances take a turn for the worse, and the family is forced to sell the donkey to a rich money lender (Rahul Khanna in a two-bit role) who in turns sells it to another trader.
The rest of the film focuses on Tahaan’s efforts to get his donkey back.
The film has some good performances, notably by Sarika (who plays Tahaan’s mute mother) and Anupam Kher in the role of a trader who buys the donkey. Child actor Purav Bhandare does a commendable job in the lead role.
Unfortunately, most of the other characters are very sketchy.
Sivan also explores terrorism in the Valley in the last half of the film, and does it very subtly.
His cinematography is without doubt brilliant. He captures every ray of light, every swirl of mist with such passion that Kashmir looks like a whole new world. Stark, yet beautiful.
However, the script is sorely lacking in its construction. The film could have been much better had someone bothered to tighten up the characters and explain their existence.