Mahendra Saini is a hardworking chain-wallah (he fixes zippers) who walks the streets looking for customers, when he is not picking up piece work at a garment factory. To support his wife and two young children he works long hours and brings home a very modest living. When his wife’s brother-in-law offers a job in another town to Mahendra’s son Siddharth, the family leaps at the opportunity for additional income, but when Siddharth doesn’t return for the holidays they discover he has gone missing. Mahendra begins a journey across India to find his son at great personal and financial cost.

Siddharth is a sad film, but a realistic one. This film takes you inside the day-to-day life in India the way few films do. The majority of films that come out of India are Bollywood style, filled with dancing and song, handling issues in a light way. Richie Mehta’s film turns away from that style of filmmaking to depict life as it actually is for the great majority of India’s people.

This is Mehta’s second feature and it’s easy to see he’s an auteur. Siddharth and Amal are both set in India, but they tell universally human stories that make them indistinguishable from any English language drama. The film is anchored by a stoic and solid performance by Rajesh Tailang as Mahendra, whose journey to support his family, try to find his son, live with dignity and understand occurrences that are beyond his control easily connect with viewers.

Is Siddharth essential TIFF viewing?

Yes, definitely. This is the kind of genuine and heartfelt film you don’t often see, and TIFF is the perfect venue to see it.

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