Siddharth, 2013, Richie Mehta’s second feature film, opened the 5th South Asian Film Festival of Montreal on September 11, 2015. This festival is an annual feature of the Kabir Centre for Arts & Culture, a Montreal-based charitable organization whose mission is to promote harmony, tolerance and inclusiveness amongst South Asians living in Canada and Canadians at large. It takes its name and inspiration from a 15th-century Indian mystic and poet.
Siddharth, like Herman Hesse’s novel Siddhartha, is the story of a quest, not of an existential nature, but for the whereabouts of a lost son. Mahendra is an illiterate chain-wallah — a man who walks the streets of Delhi fixing zippers for a living. In order to complement the family income, he sends his 12-year old son Siddharth to a factory in Punjab run by a distant relative of his brother-in-law. When the boy fails to return on the appointed date, Mahendra travels the length and breadth of India searching for his son in a heroic act of quiet despair. This he does armed only with his naïveté and blind faith, because he has never met his son’s employer nor does he have a picture of his child.
In a country where zipper-fixing is a profession and where there are many city dwellers who have never used a phone or taken a picture, will it be possible for this simple man to find his son? Child trafficking, as we know, is endemic in this part of the world.
The acting is impeccable and the locales are true to life. Vittorio De Sica, father of Italian neorealism, would have been proud.