A prophetic encounter with an auto-rickshaw driver in India led Richie Mehta to create his latest film which tells a powerful story of loss and compassion. The driver, whom the filmmaker met in 2010, had sent his 12-year-old boy to work in a factory a year before and had never heard from him again. This heartbreaking true experience is the basis of Siddharth which follows an impoverished labourer’s search for his lost son.
“It was very painful to hear the driver’s story,” recalls writer-director Mehta, the son of Indian parents himself. “The only thing I felt I could do was make a film about it. It turned out to be a cathartic experience.”
“The only thing I felt I could do was make a film about it. It turned out to be a cathartic experience” – Richie Mehta
Although he tackles a dark subject in Siddharth, Mehta set out to convey a positive side of India to Western audiences through the film. “There is an uplifting message about the power of the human spirit and the kindness of strangers,” said Mehta, 2002 graduate of Sheridan’s Advanced Television and Film program. Both Siddharth and Amal were produced by fellow graduate, Steven N. Bray (Media Arts, 2002) who formed Toronto’s Poor Man’s Productions with Mehta the year after graduation.
Siddharth has met with much critical success – winning Best Feature at the 2014 Beijing International Film Festival and earning a 2014 Canadian Screen Award nomination for Best Screenplay. The film will be released throughout the U.S. on June 27 and in Canada in the fall.
While gaining recognition for their films is gratifying, it isn’t the duo’s prime motivator, says Bray. “You hope your work resonates with the audience, but in the end we are making a film from the heart.”
That’s certainly true for Mehta’s second feature which was made at the same time as Siddharth. Opening in Canada on June 20, I’ll Follow You Down is a sci-fi drama about the mysterious disappearance of a young scientist starring Gillian Anderson, Haley Joel Osment, Rufus Sewell and Victor Garber.
Despite their different genres, both films share themes of loss and personal connection. Mehta still considers I’ll Follow You Down his first feature since he began writing the script years before attending Sheridan.
Other long-term “dream projects” await, says Mehta, but for now he is weighing out opportunities that have landed in his lap through Siddharth. “Whatever happens, I will go with the flow. I have to. It’s my life.”
Pictured at top of page: Still from Siddharth. Photo by Steven N. Bray
Written by: Carol Hill, Editor in the Alumni Department at Sheridan.