The story of a poor boy, who is inspired by APJ Abdul Kalam so much that he starts referring to himself by the name of the former president, has been selected for the London Film Festival next month.
'I Am Kalam' had its world premiere at the Marche du Film at the 63rd Cannes Film Festival on May 12 and will be released by December, says its director Nila Madhab Panda.
Eight other films will also be showcased at the 54th British Film Institute London Film Festival from October 13-28 - 'Udaan' (by Vikramaditya Motwane), 'Paan Singh Tomar' (Tigmanshu Dhulia), Aamir Bashir's 'Harud', 'Mee Sindhutai Sapkal' (I Am, Sindhutai Sapkal) by director Ananth Mahadevan, Kaushik Ganguly's 'Aarekti Premer Golpo' (Just Another Love Story), Kiran Rao's 'Dhobi Ghaat', 'Miral' (by Julian Schnabel, co-production with France, Italy and Israel) and 'Pink Saris' (by Kim Longinotto, co-production with UK).
Set in Bikaner in Rajasthan, 'I Am Kalam' is the story of Chhotu's hunger for education, something which he cannot aspire to have because of penury.
'Through an engaging, entertaining and fast-paced narrative like a fable, the 87-minute film takes the viewer to the world of Chhotu, who at one point starts referring to himself as Kalam after watching on TV, the former president speak about how he got his education fighting several odds,' Panda says.
Chhotu, played by Delhi slum boy Harsh Mayar, works in a dhaba. His life takes an unexpected turn when he befriends the son of an erstwhile king of a princely state. Chhotu reads his friend's old books and hopes of achieving his dream.
"The film, produced by Smile Foundation and Eleeanora Images Private Limited, took six months to complete," Panda told PTI.
According to the director, 'I Am Kalam' is the story of struggle that he faced and observed since his own childhood.
"The film celebrates the survival of the human spirit against overwhelming odds. It could be a story from any developing country and especially with a colonial past. I started my career in filmmaking, working intensively on the issue of child labour. I understood that it is an inheritance of an exploitative structure that profits from cheap labour without any responsibility," he says.
The strong narrative, scripted by Sanjay Chauhan (of 'Pan Singh Tomar' fame) talks about how every child deserves to live his childhood, no matter where he is born. The cast includes Bollywood 'badman' Gulshan Grover (as the dhaba owner), child actor Hussan Saad (of 'Delhi 6' fame as the prince) and French actress Beatrice Ordeix.
The music is composed by Susmit Bose, often referred as the 'Bob Dylan' of India, and Deepak Pandit.
The film has won a number of awards and recognition on the international circuit. The Lucas International film festival jury awarded the prize for best feature film to 'I Am Kalam'. It also got the prestigious Don Quijote Prize of the International Federation of Cine-Clubs (FICC) awards.