India Masala

Bollywood and culture in an emerging India

Tahaan: Stark, beautiful but with character flaws

September 5, 2008

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.

TahaanThat sentence pretty much sums up this two-hour film. “Tahaan” has a surreal, almost fable-like look and feel to it, which remains consistent almost throughout the film.

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.

TahaanDuring his journey, he treks over the hills, meets some good souls, some bad ones and returns a wiser young man.

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.

Comments

Why should a movie about Kashmir, its turmoil and the impact on its denizens not mention the local minority – the Kashmire Pandits? The writer is obviously and gravely ill-informed about the reality of the valley, its complex history since 1987 (when the first incident in the current spate of terrorist violence and the resulting heavy handed security response took place).
But, what can be expected in a review – by someone who may or may not know anything about the state, the valley and the problems of its people, including the very real minority, whose very real forced displacement took place from 1989 to 1991, while the rest of India dealt with various issues including the Mandal agitation. The empty houses are REAL (they are from a locality in Anantnag, which is now illegaly called Islamabad). Thankfully the end-roll credits in the movie continue to call it Anantnag, which only means “place of endless springs” and does not refer to the capital of Pakistan.
As far as the reviewer’s comment that the characters are very sketchy, the less said the better. What can a movie do than but to sketch life as the filmaker perceives it? Mr. Sivan cannot be hauled over burning coals, just because the reviewer is lacking in her understanding of scripts and bringing them to life on film. She needs to first spend time knowing what the province of Kashmir is all about. Maybe Reuters can chip in? For that is the least that it can do to make amends.
Cheers or should I say “lassiev”.

P.S: Lassiev is not a Hebrew word, although it may seem like one. Maybe the reviewer can enlighten all of us on what she thinks of it? But maybe that would entail some research and work.

Posted by Rajiv Kumar | Report as abusive
 

I have not yet seen this film, and would like to whenever it comes to my city, but my comment is in reference to the comment above, wherein Rajiv Kumar states, “what can be expected in a review – by someone who may or may not know anything about the state, the valley and the problems of its people, including the very real minority, whose very real forced displacement took place from 1989 to 1991, while the rest of India dealt with various issues including the Mandal agitation.”

As an avid movie-goer, is it not part and parcel of filmmaking to educate the public? Every time I go to view a new movie, I hope to learn something, be entertained, expand my horizons, escape from my reality into someone else’s. I may know nothing at all about this valley and the problems of its people, but I would hope that the movie would either educate me or pique my curiosity to the point of motivating me to do some research on my own.

So, give the poor reviewer some slack!

Posted by Wendy | Report as abusive
 

I, for one, would like to see a movie about persecution of Hindus in the valley. In fact, I, for one, would like to watch a movie about the riots showing the losses of Hindus and other communities.

Posted by Pranesh Bhargava | Report as abusive
 

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