Eye on Film: Siddharth

Siddharth tells the heartbreaking story of an Indian family man Mahendra (Rajesh Tailang) whose son Siddharth (Irfan Khan) goes missing after being sent off to work. What follows is a desperate search by a man of little means or education to find his only son. 

Supported by the Human Rights Watch Campaign, this film resonates across the world, but in poor communities in particular, as male children as young as nine are often asked to provide a source of income for families in developing countries. Belittled by the middle class police officers who blame him for sending his son off to work instead of enrolling him in school, viewers learns how particular a desperate situation can be. Money, intelligence, and access are highlighted when the family of the missing cannot even brandish a photo of their son because they don’t know how to use their own cellular phone.

Though the film is in Hindi with English subtitles, the actors expertly communicate their every emotion with facial expressions and vocal inflections, allowing none of the angst to be lost in translation.  With a social side showing how life for the poor in a country of over 900 million is taken for granted by all but the most vulnerable people, Mahendra is overcome with grief, falling into malaise. But his wife Suman, played with heart and determination by Tannishtha Chatterjee, is the catalyst behind every move her husband takes in getting to the bottom of what happened to their son. 

Mahendra's travels take him across the Indian countryside, from the hustle and bustle of Delhi, to the slums of Ludhiana.  At each unsuccessful turn, Mahendra finds hope in the voices, faces and words of encouragement from those he meets along the way.  The shots chosen by director, Richie Mehta, and editor, Maureen Dorey, give an honest depiction of the harsh reality of life in the slums of India as well as the beauty and warmth of its people. An example of the type of resilience necessary for parents wishing to locate missing children when the authorities are unwilling or unable to help, Siddharth is heartfelt, honest and packed with enough emotion making it a damn good film in any language.

The Shadow League gives Siddharth a solid B.

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