I am Kalam wins two international awards

MUMBAI: Debutant filmmaker Nila Madhab Panda‘s I am Kalam has won the Best Feature Film Award at the Lucas International Film Festival in Germany.

The movie has also won the Don Quixote Prize of the International Federation of Ciné-Clubs (FICC) awards.

Set in Rajasthan, I am Kalam relates the story of Chhotu‘s hunger for education, something which he cannot aspire to have because of his family‘s poverty-stricken status.

Through an engaging, entertaining and fast-paced narrative, the film takes the viewer to the world of Chhotu, who at one point starts referring himself as Kalam after watching ex-president APJ Kalam speak about how he got his education fighting several odds on TV.

Naming himself as Kalam has more than a symbolic meaning for Chhotu (a name thrust upon him by people at the Dhaba, who, like most of us, care two hoots for the identity of little kids working at eateries, shops and other establishments, and insensitively calling all of them as ‘Chhotu‘ (the small one).

Chhotu‘s life takes an unexpected turn as he befriends Prince Ranvijay, whose father, an erstwhile "king" of a princely state, is running a heritage hotel at his ancestral palace across the street, where Chhotu goes to deliver tea to the guests. What follows forms the crux of the film.

A sensitive film on the plight of the underprivileged, I am Kalam is also about how the privileged class can play a role in the uplift of the less-privileged millions.

Panda, who has made over 60 short films, documentaries and television drama for Doordarshan, the BBC, Discovery Channel, NGC and private producers across the globe, says, "I believe in telling stories that have a universal appeal and a sense of purpose to the art that I create. I believe that the more local you get, the more global your access will be; and so here is one such local story."

In all my films, I have explored the people‘s basic needs and problem of the marginalized. I find such stories purposeful and exciting. I am also interested in making cinema for children and family; a genre that is much neglected in world cinema and more specifically in Asia."

The film‘s cast that has Delhi slum boy Harsh Mayar in the title also includes veteran actor Gulshan Grover (as Bhati the dhaba owner), child actor Hussan Saad of Delhi 6 fame (as Prince Ranvijay), French actress Beatrice Ordeix, FTII-trained Pitobash Tripathy and Meena Mir.

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