Review by Louise Keller:
Propelled by a hauntingly beautiful music score, Richie Mehta’s film about a missing 12 year old boy and the father who searches for him is profoundly sad, as it reveals disturbing truths. It’s a poignant story that offers a glimpse into the life of a father who does not realises the value of his child until much too late. Also effective is the vivid portrayal of India; we feel as though we are there, immersed among the distinctive gaudy colours, textures and sounds.
A missing child is bad enough, but there is more. The parents send him to work instead of school is all too casual, and most telling is the fact that no photograph exists of this child, nor does the father know his age. ‘Twelve or thirteen,’ he tells the police, when asked. As for any distinguishing features? ‘His mother would know,’ is the father’s reply.
Slow to start, the story gathers momentum in the third act, the mood from the environment key to our being drawn into the film’s reality. Amid the rickshaws, street animals and crowds of people, we can taste the dust, feel the bustle and hear the cacophony of constantly beeping horns and bells amid street vendors and children playing cricket in the streets. It is this reality that allows us get to know and understand the characters, making Mehta’s story so affecting.
When we meet Mahendra (Rajesh Tailang) in Delhi, he is putting his son Siddharth onto a bus for Ludhiana, telling him to contact them when he reaches his destination. Times are tough and Mahendra, who works as a chain wallah in the streets of Delhi, fixing zippers, bags, jackets and frocks with implements he carries in a small tool kit, is not making enough money to make ends meet. He and his wife Suman (Tannishtha Chatterjee) live modestly; their young daughter Pinky (Khushi Mathur) stays close to home.
All the possibilities canvassed are distressing: child labour, the red light district, the organ trade. When Mahendra eventually catches a bus to Ludhiana and confronts the factory boss where his son was sent, the response is shocking. ‘If you can’t find him, just have another one,’ the factory boss says. His journey continues to Mumbai where Mahendra imagines every young boy in the street is his son. He can no longer remember what he looks like. His nightmare has truly begun.
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at The South Asian International Film Festival in New York, Andrew Lockington’s beautiful score complements and counters the images and sentiments expressed. Sweeping strings weep with innate sadness, building up in intensity as the search continues, oriental flutes beckoning…
Not to be confused with Siddhartha (1997), the story of a young Brahmin and his search for a meaningful way of life.