Wednesday, 2 September 2009

A lost childhood

Sikander is a sensitive tale in which two children lose their innocence, writes Sneha May Francis

cast Ayesha Kapoor, Sanjay Suri, Parzaan Dastur, R. Madhavan, Arunodhay Singh
director Piyush Jha
rating G

ny kind of conflict can shatter the innocence of a child. Whether the turmoil is experienced at home or outside, it is bound to adversely affect their psyche. No war is fought in isolation, some survive the bloodshed unscathed, while others are roped into the mess. And it’s this harsh truth that’s depicted in Sikander.
Minutes into the film, we are rudely awakened by images of innocent school kids being dragged into the deadly game of power in Kashmir. The camera pans from violent bombings to the serene Kashmiri valley, contrasting the grim situation in a state that has for years been wracked by violence.
Sikander Raza is a normal 14-year-old Kashmiri boy, whose life revolves around a game of football. He dreams of it, plays it and always wears his spikes on his shoulders. After losing his parents in a terror strike, Sikander moves in with his aunt and uncle, for whom he’d do anything. However, Sikander’s life is made miserable after he becomes the target of three school bullies. It’s his meek behaviour and unwillingness to complain that instigates the bullies to pick on him every time. Enter the docile Nazreen, who instantly befriends the boy and offers him support. Their lives, however, become embroiled in the larger Kashmiri conflict after Sikander picks up an abandoned gun on their way to school.
Piyush Jha strikingly portrays how children can be easily lured into the bloody battle for want of a washing machine or an MP3 player! What forms the essence of the film is how low cunning politicians and malicious terrorists would stoop to use children to their advantage. Parzaan Dastur has come a long way from the star-counting Punjabi tiny-tot in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. He handles the turmoil of Sikander with maturity. After playing a blind girl in Black, Ayesha Kapoor does a fairly impressive job as Nazreen. Despite having a smaller screen presence, Sanjay Suri etches the character of a politician remarkably well, while Madhavan adds his touch to the dedicated army cop. They are both fine actors who believe in the strength of character. But the surprise package is debutante Arunodhay Singh’s menacing act as the crude terrorist. The soundtrack is pensive and pushes the story along.
Despite its slow pace, what works for Sikander is the intensity of the impact that violent situations can have on young minds. Jha exposes a side of war that’s often ignored. A remarkable effort to look at the other side of terror.

Published in e+, Gulf News, 27.08.09

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