Purav Bhandare, the central character in Santosh Sivan's TAHAAN, has elbowed Darsheel Safary, the child star of TAARE ZAMEEN PAR out of his top slot. There was no written confirmation about the fact that Darsheel was on top of the heap, but the fact that he now endorses so many products and is seen so often on television is a fair enough barometer. Bhandare goes one up. He has tremendous screen presence, is a fabulous actor and has brought alive the character of TAHAAN to endear himself to the viewer, just like Safary did in TZP. To put it in a nutshell, Bhandare is pure genius. Full marks to Sivan for entrusting this lad with the load of the film. But I suspect, like his character, Tahaan, where he is unknowingly being used by terrorists, Bhandare had no clue that he was the main protagonist of this film!
Before venturing into direction, Santosh Sivan was an acclaimed cinematographer and this time he blends the experience from both fields to come up with a visually appealing and a little disturbing, though thought-provoking film. Visually appealing because he has captured the purity of the Kashmir Valley, in the way only he can. The beautifully snowcapped valleys and open roads, coupled with the dilapidated houses and fields of snow are visually brought alive on screen. Disturbing because, you feel for the child who is trying in vain to get back his pet donkey, Birbal, with who he shares a bond that no adult will understand. Disturbing also because in his desire to get back Birbal, he is lured into handling grenades with a promise of getting back his Birbal. Thought provoking because Sivan makes you leave the theatre asking questions about what really is happening in the Kashmir Valley and how the locals are living their lives there.
However, Sivan could have been clearer in his thought process as to what he wanted the viewer to go home with. According to me, there is a thin veil over the storyline, which, if lifted, would have given the viewer a clearer picture. I agree that not all movies need to be easy on the mind; you have to get the viewer involved. But something, somewhere in the script does not allow me to rationalise the move behind the plot. Having said that, I must admit, it's a good experience but not for the aam junta. It's for those who love their cinema in art form.
Apart from Bhandare, the lad who plays Idris (Ankush Dubey) is another bright spark in the film. I dare say that Anupam Kher, Sarika and Rahul Bose are just supporting cast.
Move over Safary, here comes Bhandare. On second thoughts, there's room for more talented children like these two.