Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

August 5, 2011

A better life

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 11:03 pm

August 05, 2011

Cast: Harsh Mayar, Gulshan Grover, Pitobash Tripathi, Husaan Saad

Director: Nila Madhab Panda

Inspirational and humorous in equal measure, I Am Kalam is the heartwarming story of a poor boy who aspires to learn; a young dreamer determined to rise above his humble roots and carve his own destiny. Directed sensitively by debutant Nila Madhab Panda, the film avoids melodrama while delivering an important message about children and the importance of education.

Harsh Mayar is Chhotu, an uneducated but bright young village kid whose mother drops him off to work at a dhaba owned by an old acquaintance on the outskirts of a small town in Rajasthan. With his toothy smile and his affable manners, Chhotu quickly wins the affection of his boss Bhati (played by Gulshan Grover) and the foreign tourists who visit the dhaba. In between his daily responsibilities of washing the dishes and serving the patrons, Chhotu pores over his books, nursing the seemingly impossible dream of getting an education.

On learning through a television news broadcast that the country’s then-President funded his own schooling by selling newspapers, Chhotu rechristens himself Kalam and discovers a role model to look up to. He becomes friends with a rich young prince named Ranvijay (played by Husaan Saad) who shares his books with him, and also catches the fancy of a French tourist named Lucy (played Beatrice Ordeix) who offers to take him to Delhi and get him admitted into a school.

Never losing track of the film’s central theme or the message it wishes to convey, the script by Sanjay Chauhan allows enough room for light laughs. It’s hard not to be amused by Chhotu’s clashes with Laptan (played by Shor in the City’s Pitobash Tripathi), the Hindi film-obsessed wannabe actor who also works at the dhaba. More far-fetched but also mildly funny is the subplot involving Bhati’s crush on Lucy.

I Am Kalam works as much for its intelligent script as it does for its convincing performances. Pitobash Tripathi is terrific as the envious Laptan, and Gulshan Grover brings the right mix of humor and feeling to the part of Bhati. Husaan Saad is a perfect fit as ‘poor little rich kid’ Ranvijay, but the film of course belongs to Chhotu. Harsh Mayar, who won a National Award for his performance in I Am Kalam delivers a wholly believable, endearing performance as the boy who wants more from life. His smile alone will melt your heart.

Integrating music cleverly into the plot, director Nila Madhab Panda gives us a realistic slice of Rajasthan that’s hard to find in our over-styled Hindi films.

I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for I Am Kalam. It’s a charming little film that’ll leave you wiser and happier. Don’t miss it.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)


  1. i watched it today and totally loved it…

    Comment by aarti — August 5, 2011 @ 11:13 pm

  2. congrats Mr.Masand. After a long time 4 stars for a hindi movie. God bless u. Just keep a bigger heart while rating hindi cinema.

    Comment by ANKIT — August 6, 2011 @ 4:55 am

  3. Sir u r right,I loved it

    Great drama and the 2 kids are awesome.

    Now-a-days Children rock in critics’ mind Like Stanely ka dabba

    Comment by priyabrata — August 6, 2011 @ 4:04 pm

  4. Nycc Movie, very motivating and touching……..

    Thnxxx 4 a gud review…. Mr. Masand…

    Comment by Pratykash — August 6, 2011 @ 10:53 pm

  5. Should have gone for 4/5 for this one.

    Comment by Aditya — August 12, 2011 @ 7:39 pm

  6. loved the movie..its a way more than just a 3 and a half!
    was great..a must watch.

    Comment by Vinita — October 4, 2011 @ 12:19 pm

  7. Nice movie. Husaan Saad also delivers a very endearing performance. He was cast perfectly for his role in this movie. I think he will go a long way as an actor.

    Comment by Tejus — January 27, 2012 @ 10:32 pm

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