'Sikandar' is a Kashmiri drama based on terrorism, in which an innocent 14 year old football player is victimized by the militants and the army, and is forced to play a game way out of his league.
'Sikandar' is a story of Sikandar Raza (Parzan Dastur), a 14 year old student who lives with his aunt and uncle in Kashmir. He's a passionate footballer who is often bullied by his schoolmates and only has one true friend, Nasreen (Ayesha Kapur). While Sikandar and Nasreen share a youthful bond of friendship, terrorist activities are on the rise in the state of Kashmir with the arrival of Zahgeer Quadir (Arunoday Singh). Colonel Rajesh Rao (R. Madhavan) pledges to retaliate if the terror fails to cease while politician Mukhtar Mattoo (Sanjay Suri) attempts to barter peace amongst the powerful centers - the militants, the army, the politicians and religious leaders.
In the volatile state of the Kashmiri town, life takes a turn for Sikandar when he stumbles upon an abandoned gun on his way home from school. Despite Nasreen's disapproval, his curiosity forces him to pick up the weapon and use it as a tool to threaten the school bullies. Once Sikandar learns the power of the gun, he uses it to escape any troublesome situation.
While Sikandar encounters the possibility of making his troubles disappear, the opportunity comes at a huge price: Sikandar's newfound weapon soon puts him in the danger of Zahgeer, who manages to befriend Sikandar and recruit him for his sinister plan to kill Mukhtar. He trains Sikandar and promises him the reward of lifetime bliss. But when Nasreen insists on standing between Sikandar and his target, Zahgeer reaffirms his trust in Sikandar and lures him into terrorizing situations beyond his control.
What follows is a series of coincidental mishaps and a deceiving game in which Sikandar tussles between warring parties, and is ultimately used as a pawn for them to win their long running battle.
Parzan Dastur as Sikandar Raza - naïve 14 year old who lost his parents 10 years ago and lives with his aunt and uncle in a small town of Kashmir. In his goal-driven journey of making his foster parents proud and becoming an ace footballer, Sikandar is stripped of his innocence, brainwashed and displaced by militants, the army and leaders.
Ayesha Kapur as Nasreen - a 14 year old Kashmiri girl who befriends Sikandar and discourages him from joining terrorist activities. She threatens Sikandar by putting her life on the line.
R. Madhavan as Lt. Colonel Rajesh P. Rao - a strong army commander who tries to win the town by spreading peace, but comes across the harsh hurdles raised by terrorists like Zahgeer. He warns Zahgeer of an eye for eye retaliation if he proceeds with terrorist activity.
Sanjay Suri as Mukhtaar Mattoo - charismatic yet shrewd, he is the reformed Kashmiri militant turned politician who mediates peace between the diverse powers - the religious leaders, army and militants.
Arunoday Singh as Zahgeer Quadir - a conniving militant leader and area commander of the Kashmir Azaadi Force, who manipulates Sikandar and trains him to become a shooter.
Director: Piyush Jha
Producer: Sudhir Mishra
Production House: Sudhir Mishra Productions, Big Pictures
Distributor: Big Pictures
Music Label: Big Music
Screenplay: Piyush Jha
Story: Piyush Jha
Cinematography: Somak Mukherjee
Music Director: Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, Justin-Uday, Sandesh Shandilya
Lyricist: Prasoon Joshi, Neelesh Misra, Kumaar
Cast: Parzun Dastur, Ayesha Kapur, Sanjay Suri, R. Madhavan, Arunoday Singh
While there have been many anti-war films based in Kashmir, what makes 'Sikandar' stand out is the way Piyush Jha depicts the balance between Sikandar's perspective and the dangerous games of the militants. There are a few engrossing sequences that tug at your heart such as - the face off between Madhavan and Sanjay Suri, the training scenes between Arunoday and Parzan, and Sikandar's uncle discussing the irony in the statement 'Fight For Peace.'
Parzan - the young sardar boy who charmed you in 'Kuch Kuch Hota Hai' and 'Parzania' - fits the role of a Kashmiri boy and handles the transition of his character with ease. Sanjay Suri and Madhavan also prove their versatility in their non-commercial avatar as defense personnel.
But Sikandar's biggest strength is its captivating setting. All the credit goes to Somak Mukherjee for capturing Kashmir's volatile yet scenic serenity. There is visual juxtaposition in every frame - presenting the beauty of Kashmir versus the brutality of its current state.
Sikandar's premise is convincing, but the screenplay remains disjointed since Jha tries to weave together a thriller and a human drama. It falters as a suspense thriller since the pace is far too slow and the editing is choppy, making it difficult to understand the nuances of the story. While the pre-climax scenes are gripping, the subtle ending leaves you wanting more.
Ayesha Kapur - the girl who played Michelle in 'Black' - puts on an unimpressive act due to her expressionless character.
'Sikandar' features a melodious soundtrack by the trio Shankar Ehsaan and Loy, as well as duo Justin-Uday. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy compose the best track "Dhoop Ke Sikke", while Justin-Uday create refreshing sounds in classics such as "Gulon Mein" - dedicated to the ghazal lyrics by Faiz Ahmed Faiz - and "Manzaraat".
Slated or Rated:
'Sikandar' is a soulful film with an engaging story, a beautiful soundtrack and crisp cinematography. If you're all for Kashmiri folklore and enjoy shedding light on its tragically touched regions, then go see it!