Movie Review : I Am Kalam
Thursday, August 04, 2011 3:23:18 PM (IST)
Rajesh Kumar Singh, Bollywood Trade Editorial
It is the first feature film of the director Nila Madhab Panda. He has long experience of doing commissioned work, documentaries and TV serials, for Doordarshan and various government organizations and NGOs. His illustrious past has a profound bearing on the making of I AM KALAM. It comes across as a classic ‘feel good’ Children’s Film Society of India (CFSI) kind of film, woven around a sweet kid, laden with inspiring messages, and seriously suffering from a below par cinematic treatment and execution.
Set in the interiors of Rajasthan, the film narrates the story of a quick-witted, intelligent, super-confident, lively, ever smiling, but poor village lad Chotu (Harsh Mayar) whose mother leaves him with his uncle Bhati (Gulshan Grover) to earn some money as a dhaba hand. The dhaba supplies food to a nearby heritage hotel, part of a palace, run by an erstwhile royal family and patronized mainly by foreign tourists. Chotu is a quick learner and becomes very popular with the tourists and Bhati. This rankles Laptan (Pitobash Tripathy), the senior dhaba hand, who keeps tormenting Chotu.
One day Chotu watches the then president APJ Abdul Kalam on TV giving a speech about how one can rise in life through hard work defying one’s destiny. Inspired by the speech, Chotu starts reading books in his free time and introduces himself to everyone as Kalam. He becomes friends with a lonely prince Kunwar Ranvijay Singh (Husaan Saad). They meet, talk, play, impart knowledge to each other, and exchange gifts. They have to do it secretly since Ranvijay is not allowed to mingle with commoners. Chotu aka Kalam gets a friendly French tourist Lucy (Beatrice Ordeix) to help Ranvijay learn French and top his class in the subject. He also teaches the prince Hindi and even ghost-writes Kunwars’s speech for the elocution competition in the school. The real test of the friendship between the pauper and the prince comes when a palace hand notices Chotu stealthily coming out of the window of the Kunwar’s room. This finally leads to a heart-tugging climax.
The basic idea and premise of the film are its core strengths. Should a man live by his destiny or hard work? While the king (Ranvijay’s father), Bhati, and Chotu’s mother still believe in destiny, Chotu, inspired by Kalam, works hard to chart his life’s course. The screenplay fails to capitalize effectively on the idea and follows a predictable lackluster path, enlivened only by two lovable and perfectly cast principal characters of the film-Harsh Mayar as Chotu and Husaan Saad as Kunwar Ranvijay Singh. The relationship between a village lad and a well brought-up and behaved kid from an aristocratic family is beautifully developed. Though both the kids have done their best within the confines of the script and the film’s direction, Hussan Saad is more natural and uninhibited of the two and has lived his role to perfection.
The film is mediocre on screenplay, direction, production design, and the other technical parameters, with much room for improvement. It is pointless to put the onus of such failure on the film’s budget. A better application of mind has nothing to do with money. The screenplay should have etched out the relationships between the characters carefully and explored various cinematic possibilities in detail, discarding the unwanted elements. The romantic track between Bhati and Lucy is sheer waste of valuable footage and is neither funny nor poignant. The scenes between Laptan and Chotu have been poorly written and directed though they form a substantial part of the film’s screen time.
The film could have been photographed better. Rajasthan’s desert terrain, its natural beauty, palaces and havelis, and the other architectural, cultural, and scenic elements, are a cinematographer’s delight. They should have been exploited well to make the film a visual treat for the audience. The filmmaker could have taken greater care in his shot compositions and lighting, choosing the right time of the day for his shooting. The music of the film does not work either and hardly leaves any impact on the audience.
We are giving three stars to the film. One for its brilliant idea and premise, one for the beautiful performances by Harsh Mayar and Hussan Saad, and one for its being the first film of the director, which, in our view, is a commendable achievement.
Tags : I Am Kalam Movie Review, I Am Kalam Movie, I Am Kalam Review, Nila Madhab Panda, Abhishek Ray, Madhuparna, Papon, Susmit Bose and Shivji Dholi, Manavendra, Salil Vaidya, Protique Mojoomdar, Kishor Chanchal and Shivji Dholi, Harsh Mayar, Gulshan Grover, Pitobash Tripathy, Husaan Saad, Beatrice Ordeix, and Meena Mir