By Utpal Borpujari
An Indian feature film inspired by the thoughts of former President A P J Abdul Kalam on universal right to education and starring a Delhi slum boy has been selected for the high-profile World Cinema section of the 54th BFI London Film Festival next month.
Titled I am Kalam, the film directed by debutant Nila Madhab Panda uses the story of its little protagonist to underscore that given the opportunity to study, millions of children from poor families in India could become a Kalam or a Lal Bahadur Shastri, the perfect examples of how two persons from poor backgrounds rose to the top through sheer hard work and dedication.
Executed in an interesting, fun-filled and inspirational way, it has just won the best feature film award as well as the Don Quixote Prize of the International Federation of Cine-Clubs (FICC) prize at the Lucas International Film Festival in Germany.
“Getting selected to the London Film Festival and the awards at the festival in Germany has given my film the perfect push before the international audiences, more so because it is in intimate and inspirational film on how education can change people’s lives,” Panda told Deccan Herald here.
At the London Film Festival, I Am Kalam will be in the running for both the Best Film Award and the Sutherland Trophy for the best first film of a director.
Backed by NGO Smile Foundation, the film has been shot in Rajasthan and Delhi and touches upon the aspects of how many children are forced to become child labourers because of acute poverty.
Panda, who got the idea for the film from a character he had encountered while working in the cinematography department of James Bond films’ producer Barbara Broccoli’s feature-length documentary Stolen Childhood, says, “My story is close to real life even though it is a fictional one.”
“If any one person has inspired children of India in recent times, it is Kalam. In a way, it is also a tribute to him as the protagonist in my film gets inspired to study after listening to a speech by Kalam on television in which he speaks about his own childhood,” says Panda.
Harsh Mayar, a kid living in a slum in south Delhi, plays the main role of Chhotu, who is forced to work in a roadside eatery in Rajasthan because of poverty and whose life undergoes a transformation after listening to Kalam’s speech.
The other actors in the cast are Husaan Saad, who earlier acted in Dilli 6, veteran Gulshan Grover, French actress Beatrice Ordiex and FTII graduate Pitobash Tripathy.