As it often happens with me, an accidental find is sometimes a gem that you wish someone else had alerted you about. Not long ago, I came across "I am Kalaam", a Hindi movie about role models, being inspired and overcoming the odds. Frankly, any movie that has the name of the former President of India in its title and features him as a source of inspiration, better be good. And it does meet such expectations. Especially since the protagonist in the story is a young boy, played in carefree abandon and impishness by Harsh Mayar. There's another recipe for a successful movie for you. A child who can light up the screen with a smile even in the dreariest of surroundings.
There is something about watching an underdog triumph that makes us stand and cheer. The formula has been repeated innumerable times, yet it never fails to inspire (unless of course, the movie is terribly made). 'I am Kalaam revolves' around Chhotu (Harsh Mayar) who leaves his home to work at a roadside eatery to help his family earn a living. During the early part of the movie you get the feeling that Chhotu is destined for something bigger given the ease with which he learns to handle things at the eatery. His desire to learn and excel is reflected in the fleeting interactions he has with the customers as well (trying to learn salutations in different languages). A winning scene is when he learns to make chai just like the owner Bhatti (played by Gulshan Grover to perfection. It cleansed away years of images of him portraying nasty guys) after watching him do it a few times.
Chhotu's spark to learn turns to a blaze when one day he watches president APJ Abdul Kalaam on a tiny television screen accepting salutes during the Repulic Day parade. The words that the president speaks resonate with him and he realizes that nothing is impossible (all of us who have heard the president speak are familiar with his skills of oratory persuasion). Chhotu christens himself 'Kalaam' and decides to better his lot.
Things take an interesting turn when Chhotu comes across Kunver Ranvijay Singh, a kid much like him with a royal family background. The two develop a symbiotic friendship hidden from those who frown on inter-class mingling. Ranvijay with a shielded childhood, yearns to be carefree like Chhotu and Chhotu in turn marvels at the books and toys that Ranvijay has, wants to know more about his school and also helps him with his schoolwork. The two spend increasing time together in the charming countryside, learning from each other and often wondering about the inexplicable rules set by the adults.
Throw in some some good music (the impromptu jam session at the Dhabba , boyish pranks, a few dramatic scenes, Bhatti's forlorn love for a gori, and a slightly Bollywood-esque ending and you have a highly enjoyable family film. For those on the fence, if you enjoyed Chillar Party, then 'I am Kalaam' is bound to strike a chord with you.