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Tahaan

September 8, 2008

Title: Tahaan
Language: Hindi
Year of Release: 2008
Director: Santosh Sivan
Actors: Purav Bhandare, Anupam Kher, Sarika, Rahul Bose, Rahul Khanna, Victor Banerjee
Verdict: ****

There’s a poem by Oscar Wilder titled “Panthea” and one of the stanza’s goes like this
“….White lilies, in whose cups the gold bees dream,
The fallen snow of petals where the breeze
Scatters the chestnut blossom, or the gleam
Of boyish limbs in water, – are not these
Enough for thee, dost thou desire more?
Alas! the Gods will give nought else from their eternal store….”

A verse which describes about the beauty of things around us and our never ending quest for a little more than what we need. If only, life could be as simple as it exists in Ruskin Bond’s books! But on the contrary, life’s anything but that. This is probably why, “Tahaan” impresses you right from the beginning. Fiddling with an age of innocence to an unflinching friendship between a boy and his donkey, “Tahaan” is probably one of the most endearing movies to have hit the theatres in recent times.

It’s the story of a Kashmiri boy named Tahaan (Purav Bhandare) who can’t imagine without being with his dear friend, the donkey named “Birbal”. His family consists of his mother Haba (Sarika), his sister Zoya(Sana Shaikh) and grandfather (Victor Banerjee). His father has been missing for over three years – and ever since the family has been in deep financial crisis. One fine day, when Tahaan’s grandpa passes away, his mother decides to sell all the valuable items in the house and pay off the debt to some extent. In this process Tahaan’s “Birbal” is sold off to the moneylender who inturn sells it off to another old man Subhan Darr (Anupam Kher) who carries supplies across mountains. What follows is a young boy’s heart warming and persistent effort to get his friend back…there is no point in telling the story in two lines, it would be a blatant injustice to this visually brilliant poem.

The first thing about the movie is that it’s one of the first films to have been entirely shot in Kashmir after a gap of 18 years. (Source: Wikipedia). And since it’s one of the most respected Cinematographers of contemporary Indian Cinema, Santosh Sivan handling the camera, you could definitely expect some breath-taking shots. And he doesn’t disappoint…:-). I wonder how much of research must have gone into a movie of such beauty…the reason why I say is, the environs in which this movie is set brings back some painful memories. It’s a question of your convictions and ideas which are at stake. If ever your heart goes out to the people of Kashmir who are caught between the crossfire of India and Pakistan, there’s a lesson to be learnt from this movie. Every time there’s a scene where people are lined up by the army under the premise of investigation, you begin to think…is is right to suspect everyone with a beard or anyone who reminds you of some miscreant! And to mercilessly beat up innocent people under the pretext of suspicion….:-( ….With this as the background, if there’s someone who brings a smile to your face, then imagince the impact of that character….this is exactly what’s going through my mind right now. Disconnecting himself from the reality to a large extent, all Tahaan cares about is his Birbal. And he wouldn’t tolerate being away from him even for a moment. So, when the very thing he cares and loves so much is under the danger of being taken away from him, he embarks on an extra-ordinary journey and doing everything and anything he can, to get his Birbal back.

Purav Bhandare is a revelation, certainly among one of the best child artist’s to have hit the screen in recent times. His expressions, dialogues, innocence, vulnerability make him a big asset to the film. Check out everything he does to convince Anupam Kher to let him be with his donkey and that brilliant sequence of the race is sure to bring a smile onto your face. Anupam Kher is as good as he usually as, with almost a father like figure to those around him but at the same time nudging Tahaan and Zafar (Rahul Bose) who work for him. Underneath that stiff looking personality lies a soul which has taken a beaten with all these years of violence, a fact which is best described in a scene when they go to meet a old friend of his, a Kashmiri Pandit, who’s hiding himself from the world around him. Coming to Rahul Bose, I must say, it’s kinda hard to play the role of a duffer…but Rahul Bose does it with ease. Although one would expect him to have a longer footage, but this film isn’t about him…it’s about Tahaan. Among other roles,
Sana Shaikh impresses with her ever complaining attitude, but at the same time the warmth she shares with her brother leaves a good impression upon the family dynamics during testing times. Sarika (she’s mute in the flick) as the mother of Tahaan, emotes a lot more with her eyes, radiating a lot more things than what she expresses through her hands. Check her out in all those scenes when she has to go to the police station searching for her husband…and you will realise what I am saying.

The film has some breathtaking shots of various locales of Kashmir, although most of the sequences are shot in snow (which quite a few of you might find repetetive), but kudos to the team who’s scouted for these locations…it provides a great deal of authenticity to the whole story. The snow covered mountains, trees covered with snow, frozen lakes, mountains filled with fog and mist, and sun which throws the snow into a blinding glaze…it’s all there, in almost every frame. Adding to that is a good background score which is in a way funny…not sure if there’s any other way to describe it…maybe you can suggest me after you see the movie! The film also packs in good message about hope, dream and conviction to be good no matter how much life tests you….oh! just in case if I have missed saying the main point in the flick…I didn’t wanna reveal how a ticking time bomb feels like…go check it out yourself.

A good story with some great acting and stunning cinematography make it a compulsive watch. I highly recommend this movie to all those who like good cinema, and if are among the ones who don’t have a taste for plots which aren’t fast paced…all I can say is, you are missing a gem of a movie..a true Made in India…one!…:D

Again another stanza from Oscar Wilde’s “Panthea”….
“…O we are wearied of this sense of guilt,
Wearied of pleasure’s paramour despair,
Wearied of every temple we have built,
Wearied of every right, unanswered prayer,
For man is weak; God sleeps: and heaven is high:
One fiery-coloured moment: one great love; and lo! we die…”

I think that’s what life’s about…we expect too much out of it…and end up doing so little! Time to buckle up and do everything thing we can to right every wrong…we could start with ourselves…lets work with our own thoughts and ideals…ask ourselves what if things are not the same?! Would all this be still the same? I don’t know what the answer will be…but I see Hope…I see a life…I see Tahaan. It means Merciful. God.

P.S: For Complete version of Oscar Wilde’s “Panthea” click here.

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