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Review: I Am Kalam is wholesome and hearty

Review: I Am Kalam is wholesome and hearty

Source: Sify

By: Sonia Chopra

Critic's Rating: 17/5

Thursday 4 August 2011

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Movie Title

I Am Kalam

Director

Nila Madhab Panda

Star Cast

Harsh Mayar, Gulshan Grover, Pitobash Tripathy, Husaan Saad, Beatrice Ordeix, Meena Mir

It fills you up, really. This bitter-sweet story about a feisty boy (Harsh Mayar) who loves school but is working at a roadside eatery instead. The mother puts a stone on her heart and gets the boy working at 'Bhati's Dhaba'.

Set in Rajasthan, the dhaba is doing well - it supplies daily meals to the royal family and also to the guests residing in the palace's heritage hotel. Bhati (Gulshan Grover, impressive) takes to the little boy immediately. Like most child labour in India, he too is nicknamed Chotu, a name he vehemently detests.

Laptan (Pitobash Tripathy) who was Bhati's only staff so far is suddenly threatened. His attempts at harassing the new entrant and their volatile equation is hilarious. At times, of course, the jealousy gets out of hand.

After seeing an inspiring television speech by former Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam, Chotu's heart swells with dreams. On hearing of the former president's humble beginnings delivering newspapers for money, the little boy renames himself Kalam. His mother, far away in the village, has no idea of this development.

Foreigners flocking to Bhati's Dhaba adore Kalam and his broken English. The secret of his new-found linguistic skills lies in the palace where he drops off tea every day. He has befriended Ranvijay Singh, the palace's little prince (Hussan Saad).

This poor little rich boy, swimming in luxuries and bored of his over-privileged lifestyle, was yearning for a friend too. He and Kalam make a pact - one will teach the other English, the other will help with Hindi.

But it's difficult to ignore the creeping sadness as you see the contrasting worlds of the two children. The film won't shy away from showing us the face of two disparate Indias existing side-by-side. It's a world where the two friends have to meet discreetly fearing the family's strict instructions to befriend 'only royal blood'. But for how long will their friendship survive?

The film holds the story together masterfully up till the finale. Hurriedly put-together with cliches like characters having an abrupt change-of-heart, the film ends on an improbable and fairytale-like note.

But overall, I Am Kalam (multiple award-winner at film fests) is a delightful tale that takes children seriously. The naivete with which our little protagonist takes to President Kalam's speech is endearing. And his attempt at reaching Kalam personally to drop off a letter even more so.

Heartfelt performances by the child actors leaves one amazed at the dexterity of children as performers. Director Nila Madhab Panda and screenplay-dialogue writer Sanjay Chauhan spin a tale that's earnest, soulful, and fun.

The film is abundant with rich cinematography (Mohana Krishna), vibrant music (Sushmit Bose, Abhskek Ray; background score by Deepak Pandit), and clever sound design (Kaamod Kharade).

Panda has woven in several moments that have you spell-bound. Note the one where strangers at the dhaba come together for an impromptu jam session - it's a scene that's beautiful to look at and wonderful to listen to - a wholesome treat for the senses!

I Am Kalam is yet another superlative children's film this year. Go watch this hearty film that lingers with you long after.

Rating: 3.5 stars

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