DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

SIDDHARTH (director/writer: Richie Mehta; screenwriter: story by Maureen Dorey; cinematographer: Bob Gundu; editors: Stuart A. McIntyre/Richie Mehta; music: Andrew Lockington; cast: Rajesh Tailang (Mehendra Saini), Tannishtha Chatterjee (Suman Saini), Anurag Arora (Ranjit Gahlot), Shobha Sharma Jassi (Meena Gahlot), Geeta Agrawal Sharma (Roshni), Amitabh Srivasta (Om Prakash), Mukesh Chhabra (Mukesh-Bhai), Khushi Mathur (Pinky Saini), Irfan Khan (Siddharth/Chai Kid/Kamathipura Child), Ram Ji Bali (Aaakash, traffic cop); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Steven N. Bray/David Miller/Richie Mehta; Zeitgeist Films; 2013-Canada/India-in Hindu with English subtitles)

"Powerful family drama."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Canadian writer-director Richie Mehta ("I'll Follow You Down"/"Amal") helms this powerful family drama set in modern-day India. It's inspired by a true story, and based on a story by Maureen Dorey. The spellbinding pic delivers a heart-rendering lesson to a thoughtless father, who is rightfully guilt-ridden that his son is missing because of his negligence and travels to distant places against all odds to search for a son he failed to safe-guard.

Mehendra Saini (Rajesh Tailang) is an impoverished chain-wallah (fixes zippers), eking out a small living by working in the streets. He lives in New Delhi with his wife Suman (Tannishtha Chatterjee), his 12-year-old son Siddharth (Irfan Khan) and his youngest daughter Pinky (Khushi Mathur). In need of extra money, he sends his son to work for a month in a factory far away in Punjab that hires illegal child labor. When Siddharth fails to return for the Diwali holiday and dad can't make contact with his son, the family fears the worst. Dad gets no satisfaction when talking on the phone with the uncaring factory boss (Amitabh Srivasta) and confronting his shook-up brother-in-law Ranjit (Anurag Arora). He's the one who arranged the job for a commission from his relative factory owner. The factory owner speculates the kid ran away, even though he left his clothes behind. The police feel the search is futile without the kid's photo and that it's reported a few weeks after he disappeared, telling dad that such a late report usually brings bad results. The distraught father raises money to go to Punjab, and the only info and concern he gets is from one of the children working in the factory. He tells dad that kids snatched are sometimes taken to Dongri. After finding out that Dongri is a neighborhood in Mumbai, the father goes there in desperation without the use of any modern tracking devices and with no support from the disrespectful police.

The strong unsentimental climax is played out in a tense and lucid neorealist light, that is both moving and unnerving. The engrossing drama makes excellent use of its real street locations, is well-crafted and your heart goes out to the victim family.

REVIEWED ON 12/3/2014       GRADE: A-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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