Low on action but high on intensity, Siddharth does a few things very right. For one, the title character doesn't show his face. Siddharth, the 12-year old son of a poor Delhi zipper repairman named Mahendra (Rajesh Tailang), is placed on a bus in the opening minutes of the film and sent to work at a faraway factory. When the boy fails to return home on time, Mahendra worries his son has been kidnapped. It's a conventional setup, but once Mahendra begins frantically searching, the situation grows murky: We learn Siddharth was sent away illegally, and without even one photo of his son, the fallible father has little to give the authorities. Director Richie Mehta is pushing a message, not so subtly suggesting Mahendra's troubles are rooted in his low social status. But he handles the story with a mostly gentle touch. Nasty characters are never quite villains, and Mahendra—who asks, "Why else would I have a son, if not to work him?"—has his own flaws. Tailang carries the movie on his shoulders, playing a man whose skin is tough at first but who unravels as time passes. Eventually, he's tearfully grabbing at random boys in the street, and we're left wondering how such a melodramatic premise could spark a movie that feels so real.
Critic's Grade: B+
SEE IT: Siddharth opens Friday at Living Room Theaters.