I Am Kalam - Movie review

Published: Aug 06, 2011, 01:05 IST | Shubha Shetty Saha

Chhotu (Harsh Mayar) comes from a really poor family and works at his uncle Bhati's (Gulshan Grover) dhaba.

I Am Kalam
U; social Drama
Dir: Nila Madhab Panda
Cast: Harsh Mayar, Husaan Saad, Gulshan Grover, Pitobash, Beatrice Ordeix
Rating: ****

Once in a while, you come across a film that makes you a 'softer' person after just one watch. Yes, I truly believe that movies have the power to make you a better person, even if just temporarily. I Am Kalam, which revolves around seemingly impossible dreams of an 11-year-old, is one such experience.  

Chhotu (Harsh Mayar) comes from a really poor family and works at his uncle Bhati's (Gulshan Grover) dhaba. At the outset, the story appears simple enough. But as it unfolds, deeper layers unfurl in the most magical way. Chhotu befriends Kuwar Ranvijay Singh (Hussan Saad). The rich prince suffers from loneliness until he meets Chhotu (flashing his trademark confident toothy grin) who teaches him a few lessons, some obvious and some more subtle.

hile Chhotu's bullying and insecure colleague at the dhaba, Laptan (Pitobash) is a die-hard fan of Amitabh Bachchan, Chhotu has bigger aspirations. The kid is so inspired by former Indian President APJ Kalam that he confidently rechristens himself Kalam.

Nila Madhab Panda makes a confident directorial debut, with his head and heart in the right place. Among other things, I am most impressed by the way Panda cleverly passes on a social message that a child's brilliance shines through even in the dreariest of circumstances. And in direct contrast, a child can't be made happy by bestowing him with costly toys and other comforts.

This film is the right combination of sparkling intelligence and well-placed emotions. For millions of child labourers across the country, there couldn't have been better representation of them than Chhotu, with his genius and undying optimism. The best thing about this movie is that it is happy, despite the grim reality of life it portrays. The positivity somehow manages to touch a chord.

While Harsh Mayar steals your heart right away (the National Award was so well deserved), it's the other child Hussan Saad who also impresses with his clear diction and natural performance. Gulshan Grover as a kind man, who has a secret crush on a French woman Lucy (Beatrice Ordeix), is very good as usual.  Pitobash does a very good job too. 

I must make a special mention of a scene that took my breath away. One evening at the dhaba, Lucy starts this impromptu musical symphony which gets everyone around involved... I Am Kalam stands for what Chhotu firmly believes in. You make your own destiny, which he picked up from a speech by APJ Kalam.  At a time, when children seem bereft of the right idol to emulate, I Am Kalam shows the way.

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