There is a small but telling moment in Tahaan when a little boy, frantically searching for his donkey, interrupts a bunch of kids playing chor-police. Since we are in Kashmir, half the boys are playing militants and the other half the army. At the end of the game, they all fall down. This brief scene beautifully captures the irony, horror and unending tragedy that is Kashmir. Director-writer-cinematographer Santosh Sivan gives us a fable about a childhood fractured by loss and grief. Tahaan’s father was picked up for questioning three years ago and never returned. His mother weeps, prays, searches and endures. When the money runs out, she sells her son’s best friend, a donkey named Birbal. Tahaan’s struggle to get Birbal back leads him to a dark, dangerous space. Eventually, he's standing in a street, bewildered and afraid, holding a grenade in his hand. The children in Tahaan, Purav Bhandre and Dheirya Sonecha, are natural born actors and their innocence adds to the ache in this story. The adults—Sarika, Anupam Kher, Victor Banerjee, Rahul Bose—are also very good but the performances cannot mask the meandering and sometimes naïve script. The first half of Taahan is a plodding test of patience. Sivan creates the daily grind of rural Kashmir where guns, bodies and bullet shots are routine but the narrative lacks clarity. You register the horrific events, which are made more poignant by the stunning locales, but they don’t pierce your heart. Thankfully the plot gains momentum and urgency in the second half. Kashmir is an epic geopolitical tragedy but Tahaan doesn’t probe these complexities. Neither does it provide any easy answers. Instead Sivan paints a portrait of sorrows, big and small. This bittersweet film is inconsistent but still, I recommend that you see it. Because Tahaan is an elegy for our paradise lost.