Review: ‘Tahaan’

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.

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.”

Tahaan

India

Production

An IDream Prod. presentation, in association with Santosh Sivan Films. (International sales: IDream, London.) Produced by Shripal Morakhia, Mubina Rattonsey. Executive producers, Kamal Mohammed, Alberto Lopez, Kyoko Dan, Ashish Bhatnagar, Rohit Sharma. Directed by Santosh Sivan. Screenplay, Sivan, Ritesh Menon, Paul Hardart, Anirudhya Mitra.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Sivan; editor, Shakti Hasija; music, Taufique Qureshi; production designer, Sunil Babu; costume designer, Shahnaz Vahanvaty. Reviewed at the Hospital screening room, London, Oct. 17, 2008. (In London Film Festival -- World Cinema; also in Pusan, Rome, Stockholm, Dubai, Palm Springs film festivals.) Running time: 99 MIN.

With

Anupam Kher, Rahul Bose, Rahul Khanna, Victor Banerjee, Purav Bhandare, Ankush Dubey, Sana Shaikh, Rasika Dugal, Dheirya Sonecha.
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