Movie: I Am Kalam

Director: Nila Madhab Panda

Cast: Harsh Mayar, Gulshan Grover, Husaan Saad and others

Jagran rating:  (Good)

Story Line: Once in a while, you come across a film that makes you a 'softer' person after just one watch. Yes, movies do have the power to make 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.

Set in Bikaner, Rajasthan, ‘I Am Kalam’ is a simple yet inspiring story of Chhotu (Harsh Mayar) who comes from a really poor family and works at his uncle Bhati's (Gulshan Grover) dhaba. He is so deeply influenced by the life of former President of India Dr A P J Abdul Kalam that he starts addressing himself as Kalam.

At the outset, the story appears simple enough. But as it unfolds, deeper layers unfurl in the most magical way. Chhotu befriends Kunwar 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.

Kunwar Ranvijay Singh induces life in his dreams. The keen-observer and quick-learner Chotu is aided by his friend Ranvijay in his quest for education. Further, on learning that President Abdul Kalam too suffered several hardships in his childhood, Chotu rechristens himself as Kalam and aims to be just like him. How Chhotu makes his aspirations come true is an interesting watch.

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Thumbs up: Nila Madhab Panda makes a confident directorial debut, with his head and heart in the right place. Among other things, Panda cleverly passes on a social message that a child's brilliance shines through even the dreariest of circumstances. And in direct contrast, a child can't be made happy by bestowing him with costly toys and other comforts. With a pacy screenplay, Panda has left no room for melodrama.

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 is extremely good. Background music is blended with the situation in the scenes. Cinematography makes the film a visual treat

Thumbs down: Apart from poor essaying of Gulshan Grover’s character who is the only known star in this movie there is no drawback.

‘I Am Kalam’ stands for what Chhotu firmly believes in. You make your own destiny, which he picked up from a speech by A P J Kalam.  At a time, when children seem bereft of the right idol to emulate, ‘I Am Kalam’ shows the way.

With a child protagonist, ‘I Am Kalam’ gives an important message particularly to the adult audience on how every child has a basic right to education and live his dream.

(*Bad,**Disappointing,***Average ,****Good,*****Excellent)

JPN/Mid-day