March 29, 2020
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I Am Kalam

A straight, simple story with no great highs and lows and an easy resolution.

I Am Kalam
I Am Kalam

Starring: Gulshan Grover, Pitobash, Harsh Mayer, Hussan Saad, Beatrice Ordeix, Sanjay Chauhan
Directed by Neela Madhab Panda
Rating: **

Here’s another children’s film with a pronounced cause—education. And there are other messages woven in, for instance, that of believing in karam (good deeds) and not kismat.

Set in Rajasthan, it dwells on a life of the poor Chhotu (nice turn by Delhi slum boy Mayer) who is left by his mother at the benevolent Bhati’s (Grover) tea stall to earn and support himself and his family. As he smilingly and tirelessly washes away dishes and serves customers, he also reveals a precocious intelligence. He is quick to pick up languages from various foreigners who throng the stall and is just as good at picking up tips on how to make a perfect cup of tea. He loves his books, longs to wear an uniform and go to school and his larger aim in life is to be a tie-wearing “bada aadmi”. Most of all, he doesn’t like being referred to as Chhotu and, inspired by the then president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s TV talk on education, tells everyone that his name is Kalam. It’s his own way of asserting his identity and individuality instead of getting lost amongst thousands like him.

Bhati’s tea-stall also serves the tourists in a nearby heritage hotel run by the member of an erstwhile royal family, which brings in the prince and the pauper touch to the film. Chhotu meets the owner’s (Chauhan) son, Rannvijay Singh (Saad), who is his own age, and the two get friendly despite the severe socio-economic divide between them.

It’s a straight, simple story with no great highs and lows and an easy resolution. The film moves a bit slowly, the acting initially feels mannered and the setting designed. But the unashamed good-heartedness and positivity of the film eventually take over. Despite his dismal existence you never find Chhotu downbeat. His joys are infectious. Similarly, none of the people surrounding him are entirely good or bad, not even Laptan (Pitobash), his Bollywood-obsessed co-worker with whom he has many a quarrel. Nila Madhab Panda takes off from former president Kalam’s popularity amongst children. And the overwhelming message is that many underprivileged kids can be as successful as Kalam if provided the right opportunities.

High Fives


  1. Singham
  2. Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara
  3. Harry Potter: Maut ke Tohfe
  4. Murder II
  5. Delhi Belly (Hinglish, Dubbed)


  1. Cowboys & Aliens
  2. The Smurfs
  3. Captain America: First Avenger
  4. Harry Potter: Deathly Hallows
  5. Crazy, Stupid, Love


  1. Red River Blue (Blake Shelton)
  2. My Kinda Party (Jason Aldean)
  3. Neon (Chris Young)
  4. Outlaws Like Me (J. Moore)
  5. You Get (Zac Brown Band)

Courtesy: Film Information

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