Siddharth is the story of Mahendra Saini, a chain-wallah (a person that fixes zippers) in Delhi who sends his son Siddharth to work in a factory in another town to supplement the family's meagre income. When Siddharth fails to return home for the festival of Diwali as promised, the family commence an obstacle-riddled journey to search for him, fearing that he may have been abducted by child-traffickers.
Many poignant moments pepper the film's ambling pace but one needs to be diligent about reading the subtitles to pick these up. However the negative undercurrents are quite apparent from actors' faces and their body language. The audience thus begins to feel a deep sense of sympathy for Mahendra Saini and his family as the film progresses.
That is until we meet Roshni Madam - hard-talking police inspector charged with the task of finding the boy. She delivers a gut-punching statement to Mahendra about the poor getting what they deserve that sits uncomfortably in the scene, and equally so with the audience. So much so that the audience is left wondering whether we should in fact be sympathising with the Sainis. But the defining moment of the film, for me, comes later on. A few ominous words spoken by a child followed me all the way home.
The film is an unapologetically real portrayal of the daily hardships faced by the majority of India's population who are forced to work on the streets. Director Richie Mehta does not try to sugar-coat the obvious. Stunning and emotionally-charged performances by Rajesh Tailang (Mahendra) and Tannishtha Chatterjee (wife, Suman Saini) further reinforce the hopelessness of life faced by the impoverished masses.
Siddharth is a story of the bond of family, coming to terms with loss, and hope. Though the darkness is thick, Richie Mehta creates a beacon of optimism that is both subtle and unmistakably convincing.
The film opens in cinemas on October 9th 2014 and is well worth a watch for those of us who value a good story and don't mind a dose of reality once in a while.