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FR 7 – TAHAAN (2008) – A boy with a grenade

May 2, 2009

Mad Professor Marks: 6.5 out of 10

Santosh Sivan is a filmmaker of int. reputation having received much critical acclaim overseas for THE TERRORIST (1999) and BEFORE THE RAINS (2007). Coming from a cinematographer background with nearly 40 feature films incl. Aishwara Rai-starrer BRIDE & PREJUIDICE (2004), DIL SE… (1998) and ROJA (1992) to his credit, the now-director, cinematographer, writer, producer returns with TAHAAN to a genre which he has already explored and mastered 1997 in his directorial debut HALO – the children film. While HALO’s aesthetic sensitivity and the authenticity and simplicity displayed in performance, direction & story put Sivan on the world map next to Iranian master Majid Majidi, TAHAAN explores the life of the young boy Tahaan (Purav Bhandare) in the mountains of Kashmir where he gets entangled in a net of military forces, poverty and terrorism. Sivan has succeeded in capturing the film’s world through the eyes of the young innocent boy and it all starts when Tahaan’s mother is forced to sell all her belongings, jewellery as well as the family’s donkey Birbal who was given to Tahaan by his father. Tahaan’s father is missing due to unknown reasons since several years. Tahaan’s mother is unable to speak and the film does not tell us if this physical handicap is a result of losing her husband or if she is dumb by birth. Tahaan sets out on a journey to bring his donkey back. Letting the donkey given by the father go out of his life, would be like giving up the hope that his father will ever return…

The film premiered at Cannes and features a solid cast including Rahul Bose, Anupam Kher, Sarika, Rahul Khanna and Victor Banerjee.  Although it offers a point of view on the Kashmir conflict not yet seen on the screen, the filmmaker sometimes seems too consciously try to create an artistic masterpiece, so that the narrative did not flow as natural and effortlessly engaging as with HALO or Majid Majidi’s CHILDREN OF HEAVEN.

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