Siddarth is a movie which is undeniably made with a mission statement, one meant to bring awareness to a issue which remains unreported but remains a major issue in places like India. The filmmaker, Richie Mehta, who also wrote the story with the assistance of Maureen Dorey, obviously wanted to bring attention to the hundreds of lost children snatched from the streets by those wanting to work them as beggars. And while a documentary could have been made on the subject, he choose to make Siddharth as a narrative, to appeal to the universal qualities of the story. Indeed, the familiar story of the film is the most powerful aspect of the film, particularly telling the narrative so specifically through the eyes of the father…the father who takes some of the blame for the loss of his son.
Indian actor Rajesh Tailang plays the father of two children, a teenage son and young daughter. Making very little repairing zippers in the neighboring towns, he sends his teenager son to a workshop for a few months to make money for the family. His wife understandably was resistant to this decision to send her son away (we see the farewell on the train at the beginning of the film). However, when his son fails to return home when planned, Tailang realizes his son didn’t run away as he is told by the workshop owner, but more than likely snatched.
In a film which could have been about how unjust the world is for those living in the kind of poverty we see Tailang and his family live in, Mehta and Dorey show how complicated these kinds of issues are in a place which is not yet overrun with surveillance and constant computer technology. The family doesn’t have current photos of their children because they don’t have the kind of phone which takes photos. They felt obligated to send their son to work because of their desperate need to make money, but that also have taken him out of school where he could be protected and given another kind of assistance by the government. And while tough, none of the authorities are dismissive or unkind to the distraught parents, but they are honest to say that it is unlikely for such a crime to turn out well.
More impressively on the part of filmmaker and Tailang was the decision to show how naive and childlike Tailang’s character truly is, unable to accept certain truths about the world around him, even while his wife is making plans to the contrary. At times the filmmakers show the distraught father making mistakes in his desperate attempts to find his son…attempts we know won’t end well. Our protagonist is far from Liam Neeson in Taken, yet we also know he undeniably loves his family and his one concern is them. He simply isn’t as worthy as those around him, good or bad.
Siddharth is a small film which was made with little money and is far from a Hollywood production. In terms of cinematography, the film is honestly lacking, as the shaky came and inconsistent camera work is less a choice than it is a result of limitations. And the over-melodramatic score is similarly an example of a film wanting to be cinematic, but lacking the resources. Nonetheless, the film is impressive as a family drama-thriller and in raising awareness for a global issue.
Watch the Siddharth Trailer