"Siddharth": Losing a Child You Had to Give Up

Writer-director Richie Mehta's Siddharth begins with the title character, a pre-teen boy, being put on a bus by his father and saying goodbye. He's gone before we've even really seen him, and what follows is the awful feeling that his dad may never see him again at all. Business hasn't exactly been booming for Mahendra (Rajesh Tailang), a meek zipper repairman who works the streets of Delhi, so with acknowledged desperation he'd hoped that sending Siddharth off to work in a factory would bring their extremely modest household an essential second income. Instead, the boy goes missing, and Mahendra's quest to find him — to even find out what happened to him — gets stymied at every turn. Cops and bureaucrats reprimand him for child labor-law violations. His terrified wife (Tannishtha Chatterjee) rages at him for failing to provide. The factory manager carps about the cost of replacing a lost employee. All legwork falls to Mahendra himself, but he clearly can't afford it. And, with Siddharth presumed abducted, the search seems increasingly futile anyway. Eventually a street kid says, "Maybe he got lucky and left this world." So obviously Mehta's film won't be playing out like some Liam Neeson potboiler. Nor is it quite the social-issue picture many First World viewers might expect. Catharsis won't come easily here. And Siddharth won't easily be forgotten.

 
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