New Delhi: A slum boy`s determination to educate himself and his will to rise above his problems is the story told through `I Am Kalam`, which is releasing Friday. With the film, director Nila Madhab Panda is trying to give a message that every child should go to school.
`I Am Kalam` celebrates the survival of the human spirit against various odds, and true to the Smile Foundation`s aim highlights the need for underprivileged children`s education through the protagonist played by Harsh Mayar.
Smile Foundation, the NGO that works for the welfare of under-privileged children, has forayed into filmmaking with "I Am Kalam". Directed by Nila Madhab Panda, the film starring Gulshan Grover, Pitobash Tripathy and French actress Beatrice Ordeix is said to have been made at a modest budget of Rs.2 crore.
Thoyugh born in poverty, Chhotu (Harsh) does not allow his circumstances to affect his dreams and desires. A cheerful boy by nature, Chhotu works in a small roadside food stall owned by Bhatti (Gulshan Grover) during the day to support his family. In the evening, he spends time reading books because he wants to educate himself and create his own destiny.
While struggling for his survival and slogging to make ends meet, Chhotu meets Prince Ranvijay. Like any other child, he too is impressed by the prince`s persona and is immediately drawn towards him. The liking is mutual as the prince too is mesmerised by Chottu and their unlikely friendship surpasses the class barrier.
What brings a constructive turn in Chhotu`s life is a speech by former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who too saw tough times as a child but achieved what he wanted through his sheer determination, perseverance and hard work. Chottu is so inspired by the speech that he pledges to turn his life around.
The first thing he does is that he drops his name Chhotu, a tag used to identify countless child labours across India, and adopts Kalam as his new name. And Ranvijay helps him in achieving his goal.
"The idea of the film is to give a message that every child should go to school which is relevant to the right to education and that effort is more powerful than fate. It also urges the privileged masses to join the effort to educate the children and help them to dream and turn their dreams into breathing reality," said Panda.
The film was premiered at the 63rd Cannes Film Festival and since then it has travelled to various film festivals bagging various awards and honours, including the top one at the Indian Film Festival in Los Angeles (IFFLA).
Harsh walked away with the national award for best child artist for the film.
Panda is already working on two more films to make a trilogy on the lives of helper boys, popularly called "chhotus". The trilogy will focus on the growth of the main character and different facets of his life.