Lenser-cum-occasional director Santosh Sivan comes up with an expectedly good-looking but dramatically slight semi-kidpic in “Tahaan,” centered on an 8-year-old boy, his donkey and terrorist strife in scenic Kashmir. Young protags against adult sociopolitical backgrounds are nothing new to Sivan’s movies, and “Tahaan” blends the two sides almost as well as did his 1998 “The Terrorist.” But the leisurely first hour, too focused on small details, leaves the whole film feeling slight. Beyond fests, ancillary looks warmer.
Pesky Tahaan (Purav Bhandare), whose father is MIA, lives with his older sister, Zoya (Sana Shaikh), yarn-spinning grandfather (Victor Banerjee) and dumb mother. After his beloved donkey, Birbal, is sold to a money lender, Tahaan meets a young terrorist, Idrees (Ankush Dubey), who says he’ll help get the animal back if Tahaan helps smuggle a grenade. Pic has the feel of a fable played out against very real events, and generates some tension in its final reel, but takes a while getting there. Tight script, mobile camerawork and eye-catching locations in Jammu and Kashmir form a pro package. On posters, but not on the print, pic is titled “A Boy With a Grenade.”