Cast: Gulshan Grover, Harsh Mayar, Pitobash Tripathy, Husaan Saad, Beatrice Ordeix, Namrata Dixit, Meena Mir, Garima
Directed by Nila Madhab Panda
Films produced with the intention of acquiring leafy film festival logos on the DVD cover, can end up being dangerously pretentious, even if they stick to the formula. And 'I am Kalam' is a perfect example of such a film. A pseudo-intellectual masterpiece that could be revered by those who're connoisseurs of 'I can so feel his suffering' and 'I can so read the subliminal quadruple messages that the director has intricately woven into the screenplay'. As for others, check what else is playing.
I am Kalam (and I am not a scientist?), is the story of a little boy, Chotu (Harsh Mayar), who works with his jolly uncle Bhati mama-sa (Gulshan Grover) at a dhaba in a dusty touristy small town in Rajasthan. The place is embellished with yawning camels and local instruments are blown out of proportion to make for a background score. Chotu's work mate is the characteristically human earwig, Haddi/ Laptan (Pitobash Tripathy) whose presence is more inconsequential than a few pots and pans used at the dhaba. But Chotu's rather controversial relationship is his friendship with the minor heir of the land, kunwar-sa (prince) Ranvijay (Husaan Saad). Predictably, the two find each other's lives intriguing and magical. Chotu loves to study and Ranvijay has the books. You do the math.
Soon, enriched by his many interactions with foreign tourists and after learning to wear a neck-tie, Chotu feels anything is possible. And in his tremendous high, he screams out his new name, 'K for Kalaam!' He had seen President Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam being honoured by many on TV once, so...
The film packs in every cliché one would expect and even those that prop up as a surprise only to upset you further. The first has to be Kalam's poverty and desire to study (why don't rich kids in films ever share this pure passion for learning?). Second, Kalam works at a dhaba and despite Bhati mama's protests, his (possibly) widowed mother points out, "Char paisa kamavego, toh karja utar javego." Puke.
Bhati Mama-sa's fake broken-English to impress French tourist, Lucie madam (Beatrice Ordeix) is another. He prepares the camel for a ride and proudly suggests, "Oothni fit, you sit!" When she flirts back, saying, "Bhati, you so sweet!" "So you eat!" is his humble, yet cheeky response. And these are some of the better lines in the film.
The young Harsh Mayar delivers excitement and uncontrollable enthusiasm in his performance, while Gulshan Grover is unobjectionable and subtle. But none of the performances can animate this dreary story that lacks spunk or anything that could hold your attention or interest. Unnecessary sub-plots like Bhati mama's love angle or the tragedy of errors towards the end or even Lucie madam's keenness in educating Kalam, seem forced and dull. The music seems to well-represent the land where the film is shot, but a pathetic jam session that can be best summarized as 'Poke studio', could've been done without.
While the film deals with the serious issue of education for all, this topic has loomed large over our country for long enough to have any novelty. Now, it just seems like a desperate plea for global attention.
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