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Review: Siddharth

– by Ivy Monique

siddharth posterMegaphone strung around his back, Mahendra Saini (Rajesh Tailang) a chain-wallah roams the heavily congested and polluted streets of Delhi calling out to anyone who might need their zips fixed. Hardly a stable job with a regular flow of income, Mahendra following the suggestion of his brother in law, carts his son off to work illegally in a distant trolley factory as a means to gain extra income to support the family. When Siddharth, his son, doesn’t return home for the Diwali holiday, suspicion is raised and they later find out Siddharth had been missing two weeks prior. It slowly dawns on Mahendra and his wife that their child might have been a victim of child trafficking.

There are no high speed car chases, fight scenes or explosions. He does not know martial arts and neither is he an ex security agent. He is no Liam Neeson in Taken or Hugh Jackman in Prisoner. He is just a simple and poor man who fixes zips for a living, embarking on a wild goose chase in search of his lost son.

When Mahendra finally decides to file a report with the police, the reception he gets is not one of sympathy or shock, as if a missing child is of a regular occurrence. “You people never learn,” a female police chief chastises. She scolds timid Mahendra for not putting his child in school. Defending himself, he retorts, “He’s a boy. He was going to have to work sometime”. There’s not much the police can do without a picture of Siddharth and he is egged on by his wife Suman (Tannishtha Chatterjee) to bring him back home.

Before he embarks on his journey, he first has to make the money to buy a bus or train ticket to be able to find his son. The process is painstakingly slow and Mahendra has to stoop to borrowing and pawning off his wife’s jewelry to fund the journey. It is painful to watch his delusional optimism while mine wears thin with each passing day. The pace of the search and the pace of the movie were on par.

His docile nature and lack of urgency irritated me. I wanted him to scream and cry in desperation or frustration but I got nothing except for a somber expression on his face. Perhaps director and co-writer Richie Mehta was trying to highlight Mahendra’s lack of power and poor social and economic status as a reflection of his submissiveness. In fact, the climax of the movie is when Mahendra finally breaks down in tears and frustration on a side street and starts seeing his son in a hallucinatory stupor.

The movie continues with Mahendra engaging two young street kids on the train tracks in Mumbai who are wise beyond their years. One tells Mahendra his son could be anywhere in the world while the other bluntly states if Siddharth was lucky he would have left this world. Their brutal yet necessary honesty as to what could have happened to Siddharth forces Mahendra to come to terms with the harsh reality that he may never see his son again, a bitter pill to swallow.

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