First Taare Zameen Par, then Udaan and Stanley Ka Dabba followed by Chillar Party, Bubble Gum and now I Am Kalam; films with the younger lot playing the central protagonists doesn't seem to be an alien concept anymore. I Am Kalam has already gone into a number of film festivals and received several nominations plus awards including the prestigious National Award (Best Actor in the Child Artiste Category). Well, the accolades and appreciation say it all; I Am Kalam is a simple but brilliantly made inspiring film. However, is it just one of those critically praised "art film's" which has no commercial entertainment value for the audience paying today's expensive ticket prices? Well, definitely not! I Am Kalam is about hope, dreams, self-confidence, perseverance, and the superior power of hard work over that of luck…
Left by mother (Mina Meer) with her brother Bhatti (Gulshan Grover) to work at his Dhaba with Laptan (Pitobash Tripathy), Chhotu is poor but has an internal willingness to study and make a big name for himself. After winning the heart of Bhatti and foreign tourists who come to the Dhaba, Chhotu meets prince Ranvijay (Husaan Saad), son of erstwhile king (Sanjay Chauhan) of the princely state. An unlikely friendship is struck between the two, which dares to defy the stringent class barriers of the village. But his life takes an unexpected turn when he listens to the speech of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam on television and from there; his dream to get an education and make a name for himself takes another wing. Dropping the name Chhotu and adopting the name 'Kalam' like the former President, Chhotu pledges to become a hero someday and change his future. He has only one desire and he starts to implement it by informally learning from Ranvijay, and from interacting with the foreign tourists including Lucie (Beatrice Ordeix) while working during the daytime in the Dhaba...
One surprise the film displays is the elimination of overdose of drama. The film doesn't try to make you feel sympathetic for Kalam by showcasing his troubles in life, which is refreshing. Rather, it focuses on his self-confidence and positive approach. Actually, the whole film follows an optimistic and positive storytelling approach which works a big deal for the film. At no time does the film get sobby. Unlike films of such nature, there is not even one single crying moment throughout the film. The film also has its reality check in place, which works. For example, thankfully, there is no Kalam meeting Abdul Kalam scene. It follows a realistic approach all through. Some of the best moments in the film are between the two kids Harsh and Husaan. The development of the innocent camaraderie between them has been shown beautifully. The scenes involving Paritosh and Harsh add up extensively to the entertainment value of the film.
Nila Madhab Panda is the actual hero of the film. Having a very simple story, what mainly works in I am Kalam is its moments. The film might have been kept extremely simple but is extremely effective. A unique style observed in the film is the subtle appropriate blend of the background music with the on-goings. The music is beautiful and the unique usage of it by the director makes an interesting watch. The screenplay is tight and gripping. You're always interested in what's going to happen next, which is a thumbs up. You expect a film of such nature to get boring and dull at times, but there is no such single moment in the film. Credit for the same must be given to the editing as well which is suitably crisp. Dialogues are beautifully written. The Cinematography is also first-rate making the film an even more beautiful watch.
No doubt, Harsh Mayar is the soul of the film. This confident performer has taken the film to a completely different level with his amazingly natural performance. The recently won National Award is an added proof to that. Husaan Saad is adorable. Unlike Harsh, he doesn't really get to display histrionics but that doesn't stop him from making a confident impactful performance. In fact, the scenes between Harsh and Husaan are one of the highlights of the film. Both have commendable screen presence too. Gulshan Grover is in top form, very rarely do we get to see this talented performer get a role worth his caliber. Pitobash Tripathy is incredible; he's actually one of my favorites from the film. He's a show stealer and his scenes bring in some great entertainment value. Beatrice Ordeix is sweet. Mina Meer and Sanjay Chauhan are decent in their bits.
In spite of all its positive attributes, the film can't be considered flawless. The storyline is nothing unusual; rather it tends to get extremely predictable. As an audience you do know what's going to happen next, which is a drawback. Also, the film seems to be a little stereotypical at times. For example, the poor kid will be amazingly smart and friendly with everyone whereas the rich kid will have no friends at all. Why? Can't the rich kid get along with even one of his friends in class? Why the rich guy always ought to not have friends and become friends with the poor guy? Also then he has to have some issue in his studies which later the poor kid will definitely help him out with. Plus, the father has to have a problem with him making friends with someone below his status and hence, the son hides his friendship from the father. This entire bit along with few other scenes seems to be stereotypical and predictable. Some of it was maybe required for the film, but some could be dealt with. Though the surprising end does seem kind of a relief omitting all melodrama possibility, otherwise the film could become dragging and lose its essence.
Yet, overall, the film is extremely heavy on pro's being the heartwarming film it is, leaving the con's seem avoidable and miniscule in comparison. The film might have no celebrity attraction and no masala entertainment, but it has a simple inspirational story to offer. If your heart is in the right place, I Am Kalam does not only give an important message tackling with a serious issue like child education, but also entertains you throughout giving you value for the ticket price you pay. It's definitely not for the masala addicts or for the celebrity obsessive audience; it's for those who are ready to watch a beautifully entertaining story-telling. If you're one of those, then this film is strongly recommended!
Review by - Rishitu
Rating: ***1/2 (Three and a half stars)