This modest Indian drama was put on my radar by Twitch editor Todd Brown, who named it his favourite film of 2013, and it’s easy to see why. It’s the story of a poverty stricken family in Delhi, who send their 12-year-old son Siddharth off to work in a factory, only for him to go missing.
His father, Mahendra (Rajesh Tailiang), makes it his mission to find him, but as a humble chain-wallah he has neither the means nor resources to do so effectively. Along the way he hears persistent horror stories about young children being abducted, maimed and put on the streets of Mumbai to beg, as well as facing dishonest businessmen and bureaucratic officials who seem unwilling to or disinterested in helping him.
Richie Mehta’s direction is simple yet incredibly effective, particularly the way in which he uses his younger actors. We never get a good look at Siddharth in the film’s opening scene, before he is sent packing by his father, who also doesn’t have any photos of him. As a result our memory of what the young lad looks like is hazy at best.
During the course of the film, Mahendra meets many young boys in his search for his son, as Mehta deliberately casts a number of young actors who look remarkably similar to Siddharth, and even uses the same actor – Irfan Khan – in a few of the roles, to further mess with us. It works brilliantly.
The result is an incredibly powerful and moving film, an odyssey into the unknown, both for the characters and the audience, as we see an entirely different side of India than is normally put forward in its mainstream Bollywood Cinema. However the naturalistic performances, and the ever-growing sense of tragedy and dread, ensure Siddarth is an effecting and traumatising piece of work that is not easily shaken off.