Call it a coincidence, I AM KALAM is the third film this year that depicts the plight of an underprivileged kid. STANLEY KA DABBA and CHILLAR PARTY wowed viewers of all ages. Now I AM KALAM, directed by Nila Madhab Panda, makes a heartfelt and earnest effort to tell the story of a deprived kid and also, how the fortunate and blessed can play a crucial role in the upliftment of the marginalized kids across the globe.
I AM KALAM is engaging and entertaining in its own way and like STANLEY KA DABBA and CHILLAR PARTY, it doesn't make the kids act or behave like grownups. In fact, I AM KALAM is more like a fantasy that tells the story of a pauper and a prince, though this one is set in the present day. One of the reasons why I AM KALAM works is because the kid, who works at the roadside dhaba, represents millions of kids who are deprived of education and can become responsible citizens if nurtured and shown the right path. It's a sensitive story that adopts a positive attitude towards the less-privileged millions.
I AM KALAM is charming and fun and at the same time, it touches topics such as poverty, abuse and child labor most effectively, without being dark or gritty. The inclusion of footage of former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam makes the goings-on all the more believable and inspirational. In fact, this fairytale is well handled and is sure to strike a chord with the discerning viewer.
Despite being born into abject poverty, Chhotu [Harsh Mayar], an ingenious child with a joyful temperament, does not let his dismal conditions overpower him. In order to support his family, he works in a small roadside food stall during the day; however he spends his evenings reading books he has somehow managed to gather. He dreams of getting educated and commanding his own destiny.
On a hot sultry day, Chhotu encounters the local prince [Hussan Saad]. The pauper is captivated at the sight of the crisp tie that the prince sports. He is immediately drawn towards it. The prince eyes the camel the pauper has tamed and is instantly mesmerized. Thus, an unlikely friendship is struck between the two, which dares to defy the stringent class barriers of the village.
One day, upon hearing a speech from Dr. Abdul Kalam, the former President of India, Chhotu vows to change his future. From that day forward, the enterprising lad drops the name Chhotu -- a tag used to identity countless child labors across India -- and adopts the alias 'Kalam'. Like the former President, Chhotu pledges to become a hero someday. He is aided in his mammoth quest by his loyal friend, the prince.
I AM KALAM celebrates the survival of the human spirit against overwhelming odds. In fact, I genuinely felt while watching the film that it could be anyone's story, not necessarily a kid's. Moreover, like STANLEY KA DABBA and CHILLAR PARTY, it throws light on the issue of child labor that's rampant not just in India, but across the globe.
A film like I AM KALAM also conveys a strong message that every child deserves a good childhood and of course, education, which should not be deprived at any cost. The message comes across loud and clear and not once do you feel that it gets preachy or adopts a documentary format to drive home this message. It's an inspirational film made with noble intentions. While the writing [script: Sanjay Chauhan] is absorbing in most parts, it gets slightly unreal when Chhotu travels to Delhi and how his family/friends trace him so easily in the crowded metropolis.
I AM KALAM has an ensemble cast which includes the likes of experienced names such as Gulshan Grover [first-rate], French actor Beatrice Ordeix [natural], Pitobash [excellent] and Meena Mir [perfect]. But the film belongs to the child actors -- Hussan Saad [the prince] and Harsh Mayar [Chhotu/Kalam] -- who pitch in sterling acts. You just can't help but fall in love with the two kids. Harsh, in particular, is absolutely wonderful.
On the whole, I AM KALAM is an inspiring and motivating film that deserves to be encouraged. Recommended!