I Am Kalam is a film about an underprivileged child who is inspired by India’s erstwhile President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam and aspires to grow up to be a respectable person like him. While the basic tendency for a film like this would be to show the triumph of the kid’s aspirations by the hands of the President himself with a cameo in the climax, I Am Kalam refrains from any such larger-than-life portrayal and remains rooted. However despite having a realistic approach, the film remains optimistic throughout and there is not a moment of despair.
Though the protagonist is poverty-struck, the film at no point emphasizes on the inadequacy in his life but is rather focused on his pursuit for knowledge. The cheerful face of Chotu and the upbeat mood of the film never make the narrative distressing. Add to it, his tiff with a coworker (Pitobash Tripathy) makes way for some hilarious moments. The screenplay by Sanjay Chauhan is well-etched and keeps you riveted through its runtime.
The writing is multidimensional yet the storytelling by director Nila Madhab Panda is absolutely simple and effective. He blithely establishes the innocent and unadulterated bonding between the two boys that goes beyond the divide of their social status.
This sparkling little tale of ordinary people with their desperate dreams and tremulous hopes, their stray highs and persistent heartbreaks, follows a genteel, unhurried narrative trajectory.
While the film sets Abdul Kalam as the role model, at the same time it never delves deep into his life history or goes to give him a documentary-length tribute. Kalam’s reference is only used to the extent that it can serve as an apt motivation for Chotu. The film merely mentions how Kalam faced difficulties as a child yet went on to become the most important person in the country.
I Am Kalam draws its lifeblood primarily from the innate authenticity of its tangible characters and the sustained evenness of its pragmatic tone.
Harsh Mayar, as the protagonist, is absolutely comfortable in front of the camera and appears natural in every frame. Whether it’s a funny scene or a dramatic moment, he is amazingly confident and every-bit worthy of the National Award. Husaan Saad complements him at every step and radiates an innocent charm. Gulshan Grover gets to play a strong character after a hiatus and puts in a compelling act. Pitobash Tripathy as the Amitabh Bachchan fan has his moments.
I Am Kalam would probably have been a bit of a drag after a point but for the subtle layers of humanity that Panda dovetails into the film’s broad narrative design. He etches out each of the characters in fine detail and mines memorable moments from them. Every sub-plot has a meaningful resonance.
I Am Kalam shows how beautiful small can be, especially when the heart is in the right place and the mind is clued in. With a child protagonist, I Am Kalam gives an important message particularly to the adult audience on how every child has a basic right for education and to live his dream.
A 4 Star Movie….