A simple, cautionary tale gone berserk with potboiling twists and a moral ambition as lush and layered as the Kashmir Valley, Sikandar reveals itself to be both a corking narrative and a cogent sketch of the region's cycle of violence. The title character (played by Parzan Dastur) is a 14-year-old orphan living in Jammu and Kashmir, India, who loves soccer, is devoted to his aunt and uncle, and has three schoolyard bullies on his jock. When he comes across a handgun in the forest on his way to school with his friend and conscience, Nasreen (Ayesha Kapoor), it functions as a kind of magical amulet: Wave it in the air, and all of life's torments disappear. But the gun attracts as swiftly as it repels, and soon a militant leader is attempting to recruit Sikandar, after plying him with a little firearms-related bonding, to assassinate a local politician. The film's obvious warningKids, for the love of Allah, don't play with guns! Or Jihadis!is actually a springboard into a sweaty maze of political intrigue. Despite the cliché-riddled translation and super-corny sound design, writer-director Piyush Jha presents an affecting account of the Kashmir conflict through the struggles of its children. The burden of peace falls on their shoulders, Jha suggests, because the world of adults is a world gone mad.
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