Yet over the six weeks that he shot the tale of the young boy Tahaan and his pet donkey Birbal, he and his crew took in the snowcapped mountains and relaxed in the security that the police provided, not knowing that when the film gets ready for release on September 5, they will be staring at a different Kashmir, one that, sadly, scarcely resembles the one on the screen.
Sivans story is a departure from the terror-torn image of Jammu & Kashmir and is a metaphorical journey of hope and redemption. The cinematographer-director says he has deliberately positioned the film as a fable, meant to surprise, rather than catechise. While eight-year-old Mumbai lad Purav Bhandare plays the lead, the cast also has Rahul Bose, Sarika, Victor Banerjee, Rahul Khanna and Anupam Kher.
And for Kher, it was a journey back to his roots. Anupam is a Kashmiri, and he was giving many first-hand insights and having a great time talking to Kashmiris, says Sivan. He even involved the local people in the film to give it an authentic touch. We were shooting in villages and people were very curious. So we let them be a part of the film, either as actors or helpers, so there were a lot of smiles and it was such a pleasant experience, he says.
Up next for the director is a fantasy film in Hindi, followed by another project with award-winning American actor-filmmaker John Malkovich, Sivans friend since the making of The Terrorist. I am hungry for new things. When Im getting too comfortable in one place, I just leave. It has led me from Kerala to Tamil Nadu to Mumbai to Hollywood. I think its fantastic to be a nobody, to go to a strange place and start rediscovering oneself all over again, and since I am practicing a visual art, it always has a resonance, he says. But even this peripatetic filmmaker who sought the innocence of Kashmir could not sense what was looming ahead.