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Siddharth - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Directing: B+
Acting: B
Writing: B
Cinematography: B
Editing: B+

Who exactly is Siddharth for, I wonder? Perhaps it was made for the people who want to see films that abandon all pretense of happy endings -- all ten of them. This is not cinema as entertainment, far from it; it's cinema as reminder of the harsh realities of the world. There is no solution, either. It's just a reflection. There are places in the world, far removed from average American experience, where this is what life is like.

This is a movie that could be effectively used as an educational tool, perhaps in schools. It would pass the usual tests; there is no sex or much profanity, not even any direct depiction of violence. It's just a 96-minute portrait of the dawning realization of hopelessness.

Sure, there are other movies that have been more aggressive in their depictions of bleakness. Siddharth is a bit sneakier about it. When the opening title card lets us know that this was "inspired by a true story," you expect something with a modicum of inspiration. Do not expect that from this movie. You will be disappointed.

Rajesh Tailang plays Mahendra Saini, a poor Delhi man who lives in a dingy room with his wife and two children, scratching out a living with the one skill he has: repairing zippers, on jeans or handbags. He walks the street speaking into a megaphone: "Fix your chain, fix your chain!" One of his two children is never seen the entire film, and he is the title character: Siddharth, 12 years old, has been sent to another city for labor. But when he is expected to return a month later for Diwali, he doesn't show up. After some digging, Mahendra finds out the boy disappeared two weeks prior. The employer has no sympathy, only bemoans the labor he's lost and feels he is now owed.

Mahendra files a report, and is bemused by the judgmental questioning about using his child for labor, which is illegal. "Why would I have a son if not to work him?" Mahendra asks, as though this should be self-evident. But he still loves the boy, does not want to adopt the attitude of the employer who blithely recommends he simply have another child to replace him. He can do very little to help the authorities find him, however. He doesn't even have a single photo of the boy to share. It never even occurred to them to photograph their children.

And so, Mahendra searches for his son, between Delhi and Mumbai, where he hears rumors that lost children are eventually taken, all in vain. If there is any point to Siddharth, it seems to be that there is no point to anything a parent like Mahendra tries to do. If you're wondering what became of Siddharth, perhaps you should watch the 1988 film Salaam Bombay!, which is similarly bleak. There are unspeakable horrors in the slums of the Indian metropolis.

Mercifully, Siddharth never directly depicts any of those horrors; we are left to imagine what they might be, just as Mahendra is. This film is darker than it seems on the surface, and in the context of its story, it's justified in its subtly bitter end. I honestly can't imagine recommending this movie to anyone. When the credits roll, and a hard truth dawns on you, it feels a little like your heart is being pulled out. Maybe this movie should be marketed as a character building exercise. It makes no effort to pander, I'll certainly give it that.

Rajesh Tailang searches in vain for his missing son in SIDDHARTH.

Overall: B
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