By Dirk Sonniksen | June 27, 2014
Director: Richie Mehta
Writer: Richie Mehta (writer, dialogue), Maureen Dorey (story editor), Rajesh Tailang (dialogue)
Starring: Rajesh Tailang, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Anurag Arora, Shobha Sharma Jassi
Mahendra (Rajesh Tailang) is a father who, for the need of money, sends his only 12-year-old son, Siddharth (Irfan Khan), out into the great wide world to work in a factory. When Siddharth fails to return home, Mahendra becomes worried, but continues to tell himself that Siddharth is merely late. Soon Mahendra comes to the realization that Siddharth has not only gone missing, but has likely been kidnapped. Mehendra and his wife Suman (Tannishtha Chatterjee) begin questioning those involved, but with no answers, Mahendra ventures out into the far reaches of India in search of his son.
Siddharth sheds light on the all-too-common occurance of child abduction in India. While the current trend involves the kidnapping (and murder) of children of wealthier Indian families, director Richie Mehta chooses to feature a poor Indian family in the slums of Dehli. The backdrop is bleak; the emotional pull here is a palpable sense of tragedy, undercut with a heavy dose of hopelessness. Mehta could have given us a joyful nugget here and there, but that would have defeated the purpose as this is a serious problem in a country where adults have grown increasingly apprehensive regarding their children’s well-being. Mehta also touches on the issue of child labor and the necessity of some to send their children into an unknown world, relying merely on loose strands of assurances regarding their safety.
Far removed from the dramas and epics we have come to know well from India, Siddharth is a film that uncovers a society living in squalor, struggling to survive on the barest necessities. They are a people easily preyed upon and taken advantage of due to their desperation to get by—to barely get by. Mehta does exceptional work showing us this world through his lens with well-crafted scenes, simple yet effective writing, and actors that portray their humble characters with a kind of naiveté and dignity that gives the film a sense of place and meaning.
Many of us take for granted what we have and perhaps Siddharth is the one meaningful tale that will bring some of the advantaged within earshot of the less privileged. Running water, toilets, and food are day-to-day luxuries which many enjoy and don’t think much about, let alone that we are able to let our children play and move about freely, more or less. It’s a scandal that the disadvantaged in India are not only denied many basic sanitary needs, but must face the grim reality that their children’s lives are frequently in grave danger.
Rating: 8 of 10