Siddharth written and directed by Richie Mehta Review

Posted 8 years ago by myetvmedia

Siddharth from Canadian director Richie Mehta is nominated for two Canadian Screen Awards: Best Screenplay (Richie Mehta), Best Lead Actor for Rajesh Tailang, and Best Achievement in Overall Sound (Joe Morrow, Lalit Malik, Lou Solakofski). Check out all the nominees here. We caught up with Richie Mehta on the red carpet during Oscar weekend in L.A. and interviewed him about “Siddharth”.


Siddharth Review

Too often following a strong and critically successful debut film, a Director has difficulty in finding that same magic a second time round. Not so with Richie Mehta’s second feature Siddharth: moving, visually rich in texture and beautifully paced. We are witnessing the maturation of a new talent and breed of filmmaker that engages film not only as independents outside of Hollywood, but also as global citizens, contributing to a new ‘international horizon’ (the subject of a major Panel Discussion at the Venice Film Festival’). Mehta, born in Canada to Indian parents, has made two features in India and a third in North America ‘I’ll Follow You Down’ will be released next year.

Some might find it peculiar that a Canadian born filmmaker is making films in India in a tongue other than English, but this should come as no surprise. Indian expats have long been informing films from Britain with engaging stories and now also in North America. But ‘Siddharth’ does not necessarily share the cross-cultural pollination found in the Pakistani influenced ‘My Beautiful Laundrette’ and ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’, or an American romp through India in ‘ The Darjeeling Express’, or an Indian adaptation of a Thomas Hardy novel in ‘Trish’, it is purely a film about Indians in India, but it resonates well beyond its culture.

It is remarkable how Mehta renders his characters so convincingly in a world that should by all right be somewhat foreign to him, but the film informs us otherwise. Mehta is clearly the kind of filmmaker that loves his characters with a deep understanding and sympathy.

Like his first feature ‘Amal’, the theme of seeking, of what is lost and found or not is predominant. In ‘Amal’, an unlikely and unique circumstance provides a premise for characters to react to the caste and class distinctions still quite pronounced in India. But in ‘Siddharth’ it is a desperate journey in search for an abducted son that unfortunately is all too real. We see how unsuspecting parents casually and complicity engage their only son in illegal child-labour far away from home, to get over ‘a patch’ that turns from bad to worse.

Siddharth is a cricket loving 12 year old boy who should actually be in school or playing the ‘sandlot’ cricket that provides relief for him and his friends in an impoverished neighbourhood, but he is sent away to a factory to earn an extra 3,000 rupees a month. Two weeks into his labour, he disappears, clearly abducted and potentially sold to the many unsavoury buyers of children.

Refreshing to see a film that is rich in character development, that is paced to simulate ‘real time’, that allows its audience to process a story in all its narrative and emotional complexity. The film unfolds the internal reactions of a husband and wife to their potential loss, to each other, to the meagre infrastructure and seeming futility of the search. And all in a place where a missing child is a common occurrence with few resources to match the daunting task of recovery. Mehta however finds a thread of hope and redemption in his characters, their faith and strength. There is no cliched ‘resignation’ but a resilient determination in Mahendra’s (Rajesh Tailang) journey, in his wife Suman’s (Tannishtha Chatterjee) learning her husband’s trade, enabling him to carry out his search to Mumbai.

In all of their tribulations, Mahendra and Suman remain dignified, objective and methodical, particularly Suman as she urges her husband to act. The film is particularly strong in the authentic reactions of its ‘life on the street’ characters to Mahendra’s repeated question “where is Dongri?”, one of the places in India where lost children often end up. One runaway remarks of Siddharth, “maybe he got lucky and left this world”. Others are encouraging. Even a cruel mob boss underling is sympathetic as Mahendra refuses his help and explains that sometimes a man must ‘journey alone’. Ironically it is in Mahendra’s unsuccessful journey to recover Siddharth where he finds ‘himself’ and a new strength to move forward and commit to his own father’s advice to “go home and take care of Suman and your daughter Pinky”. When Mahendra finally breaks down alone on a Mumbai street, when there is a realization that he is even forgetting what his son looks like, there should’t be a dry eye in the house. For almost ninety minutes we shared his hope.

Whether intended or not, the name Siddharth symbolically references the transformative and individual journey of losing and finding one’s self, of achieving and finding a higher order of meaning. Richie Mehta’s second and very rewarding feature film is a moving and compelling story of self discovery in circumstances that would challenge and test the best of us.

This is more than a well crafted film under Richie Mehta’s deft direction, it is the work of an emerging filmmaker/auteur with a real passion for storytelling. He is definitely helped by nuanced and convincing performances from Rajesh Tailang and Tannishtha Chatterjee from his own script. Siddharth will have its North American debut at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF13) next week. The movie Siddharth is an India Canada co production.

Alfredo Romano



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