Being cute is nice but it is not necessarily a criterion for good cinema. Two kids, a boy serving tea at a roadside dhaba, and a lonely rich boy, scion of a princely Rajput family, become friends. Both are beautifully etched. The cheeky dhaba boy and his impish sense of humour, and the impeccably mannered kunwar and his perfect diction make for an endearingly odd couple. The friendship is genuine and works well on screen, but the rest of the plot, particularly the ‘I am Kalam’ bit, seems tagged on to make the movie look relevant and ‘oh so cute’.
It was not necessary. Chhotu the tea boy (Harsh Mayar) and the lonely prince (Hussan Saad) are naturals, and their friendship alone could have held the film. APJ Abdul Kalam’s ability, as President, to connect with young people and motivate them was admirable no doubt, but when the film shows Chhotu spotting Kalam on TV, apeing his hairstyle and then reinventing himself with a new name—Kalam—it seems a forced search for cinematic and political significance.
Then there is the ‘touristy’ sub-plot that involves a relationship between the dhaba owner, Bhati (Gulshan Grover), and a French lover of all things Rajasthani, Lucy (Beatrice Ordeix). The romance is from Bhati’s side, apparently unrequited, and lasts till Lucy speaks of a husband in New Delhi. When Bhati looks shocked, Lucy asks innocently, “Any problem?”
Plenty. There is a power cut (Lucy says “Oof, thees light problem”) and Bhati goes home and pours water on his head. This is amusing, but adds nothing to the narrative. It is padding, something that we all do on exam answer sheets when we have nothing more to say.
I am Kalam is appealing, but leaves no impact whatsoever. Oh, for the poetry of an Iranian film about children (Turtles can Fly, Children of Heaven) that you remember forever!