Siddharth: The Prisoner … at Cross-purposes

March 4, 2009 at 6:37 am (Cinema, Kiran David)


I was the only person in the cinema hall watching Siddarth: The Prisoner, a scenario I have always fantasized about – an auditorium all to myself, the national anthem played only for me, an attendant taking an order for popcorn during the interval – all just for me, a truly fabulous experience. However, it is very unfortunate that any filmmaker must face this, especially someone who is trying to do something out of the box, that too within the purview of mainstream Indian cinema.


In a country where every second film director has delusions of being a genius doing something unique, ‘different’ being that half-assed buzz word, at least Pryas Gupta in his debut film has actually tried something interesting, even if there are, unfortunately, problems along the way.


What is interesting is Gupta’s willingness to begin the film from a point in the lead character’s life when he is released from jail, without giving us any back-story. Here is a tale unfolding completely in the present. The main reason I appreciate this effort is because the director has managed, unlike many others in our cinema, to achieve a kind of tonality, feel and mood needed for the way he is looking at his subject. In order to deal with and portray the monotony that the lead character Siddarth cannot escape, the filmmaker evokes that feeling both by his use of visuals, and the score by Sagar Desai.


I believe that, in cinema, faces tell their own story and Gupta has used both the main players Rajat Kapoor, playing Siddarth, a writer, and Sachin Nayak, playing Mohan, a cyber-café employee, to fine effect. The performances are not typical and will be problematic to many viewers but in my opinion they work just right for what the film is aiming at.


Unlike many directors who use grunge vacuously to be hip, the cinematography by Mrinal Desai helps make the squalor an integral part of the film and the life the characters are subjected to.


While not obsessed with the bourgeois need to experience technically pristine visuals, I think the HD (on which the film was shot) transfer to film is problematic. There seems to be a fair amount of jitter and some colour flashes. I hope true seekers will not be too upset by this.


The main problem however with the film is that the plot mechanics come in the way of making it a truly interesting cinematic experience. The narrative – which deals with the quest of the protagonist to be truly free by getting rid of all his needs, both financial and creative – seems to have some noir-inspired elements and keeps disturbing the tone which is so essential to the film. Especially towards the last third, it really destroys the purer aspects of the film.


Reviewers, both TV and print, seem to have dismissed the film for the oddest of reasons like wanting to know the back-story of the character or cribbing about the monotony of the proceedings that seem, according to them, to go nowhere, without  even bothering to think about what the filmmaker was trying to do. If they had words of praise, it was limited to phrases like “visually good”, an easy escape route considering no one seemed to talk about the context of the photography.


I really think, with all its serious flaws, Siddharth is still worth a watch. One should encourage young filmmakers with honest intentions who try to make a difference instead of those humbugs that we have no dearth of. Maybe they will reward us one day.


– Kiran David


1 Comment

  1. jai said,

    Thanks for this review. I was shocked at some of the reviews I read online about Siddarth. Props to Pryas for trying to tell an unconventional (at least in india) story and pulling it off. The film is a must see for the young urban audience who is looking for something different and more challenging.

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