“Siddharth” is more than a harrowing drama about a father in search of his missing boy — it’s a stark, authentic examination of lower-working-class life in India.
There are no Bollywood dance numbers or spectacular weddings here — just a family struggling to carve out an existence. To that end, Delhi resident Mehendra (Rajesh Tailang, very good) sends his 12-year-old son, Siddharth, to work temporarily at a factory in Punjab, so there is more money to live on.
But in short order, Siddharth vanishes, and Mehendra must begin a desperate journey to find him, with little help from the authorities and with little money for his personal investigation.
Director Richie Mehta’s assured film avoids melodrama and builds up the tension as Mehendra and his wife, Suman (Tannishtha Chatterjee, also very good), gradually come to the conclusion that their son has been abducted by child traffickers.
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Every step of the way, Mehendra endures a lot of tedium, whether he’s trying to locate a small clue about Siddharth’s whereabouts or figuring out how to raise some rupees for the next leg of the search.
All this happens in an India that is both grim and beautiful: bustling, bureaucratic, colorful, harsh, full of cute children playing, full of downtrodden adults hustling for the next buck, full of life in general. It all feels very real.
So does the ending.