Children’s Month: Tahaan

Tahaan is a 2007 Bollywood film by well-known cinematographer and director Santosh Sivan. Set in picturesque Kashmir, it tells the story of the eponymous 8-year-old boy, who needs to find his purpose in life. His immediate purpose, though, is getting back Birbal, his best friend first and donkey later, from the clutches of Suhan Darr, a merchant, who had bought it from Tahaan’s mother. Tahaan’s family is in extreme poverty, his father had been missing for the past three years, and his poor mother is a mute. They have loans they cannot repay, and it is in this process that they sell much of their property, including the donkey.

Could Tahaan manage to get his donkey back? That would form the major plot of the story. The filler we get is both the beauty and the tragedy of Kashmir, though not in equal parts. Santosh Sivan’s camera captures more of the former and less of the latter, because the movie had been conceived for children.

To me, the takeaway is the simple structure of the plot. Of how one connects a primary goal to a secondary one and how that could lead to a choice, a moral choice, and finally how that could lead to the growth of  character. Tahaan’s primary goal of getting his donkey back is linked with the terrorist problem in Kashmir, finally leading to a choice Tahaan would have to make. This choice would help Tahaan grow as a character, and find purpose in his life.

There are a few poignant moments in the film too such as when an innocent Tahaan asks Suhan Darr, to whom the mountains and lakes and valleys belong? Suhan Darr’s wise answer is highly relevant in politically charged environment of Kashmir. Similarly, at the beginning of the movie, Tahaan’s Grandfather would tell him the story of a little girl whose parents are out working hard in the fields, while the girl is alone at home. One night, her parents haven’t yet returned home. There were dark black clouds in the sky,  which began to send down a huge rain. And droplets began falling on the floor through holes in the roof. The girl had slowly gone into sleep, and when she woke up, the sun’s light shone on her face, through those very same holes in the ceiling.

Now, suddenly, a dead butterfly on the little girl’s shirt, springs to life, and flies away. It is a miracle. Tahaan would now intercept the story and ask his grandpa if such miraculous light would shine on him too. The old man answers in the affirmative. But really, would a miracle happen in Tahaan’s life? In Kashmir? Is there hope for Tahaan? And Kashmir?

The film’s trailer:

Interview with the director Santosh Sivan:



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