I am Kalam

wogma rating: Add to 'must watch' list (?)

quick review:

I am Kalam charmingly visualizes the life of a little boy who has to work to sustain himself and his family. Its simplicity is works as both an advantage and a disadvantage. The easy-going narrative is a pleasant watch but too-good-to-be-true plot is distracting.

Read more
Director: Nila Madhab Panda
Running time: 100 minutes
Genres: Comedy, Docu-drama
More Movie Info

I am Kalam is a beautiful film. It romanticizes friendships, loneliness, class divides, political borders, ambition and of course roadside dhaabas and Rajasthan too. If only, the story held a little stronger or had a little more depth than aspiring young boy struggles to get what he wants.

I am Kalam is mainly the tale of young Chhotu who has given himself an alias - Kalam - after the former president of India. Dr. A. P. J Abdul Kalam is this little boy's inspiration. This little boy who works at a roadside dhaba cheerfully instead of grunting about going to school. He wants to go, but he can't afford to. As expected, the film has emotional moments and a strong message. But the moments are endearing and the message is well-hidden under a basic, sensitive story.

However, the story is a little more than just the story of Chhotu. It has other characters and their personalities that represent an older generation that has lost all hope and a part of Gen X from the interiors of India - the lazy, insecure and mean part. These digressions take away from the film because the approach to these side-stories is half-hearted.

I don't have material to empathize with Bhati (Gulshan Grover) or to want to give Laptan (Pitobash) one hard slap. And this is despite the fact that they have given awesome performances. You see the humility in Gulshan Grover's eyes and Pitobash annoys appropriately. But I don't care to love or hate them. The cuts in the film, that take you to their stories, give you the feeling that in the urge to keep the running time down, the makers gave up on the flow. The choppiness was disconcerting. And so was the side-story of the kings from the yesteryears who have lost their glory.

Fortunately, what matters is that Harsh Mayur who plays the protagonist is ever-so appealing with the twinkle in his eye. The rags he wears matter not, because of the wide grin he strides with. The spring in his step make you even more aware of his dire situation and the lesson or two you can learn from him. Both the actor and the character are equally responsible for the fine experience that Chhotu is.

And yet, the main story has a lot to say and I am Kalam says it with love. Its strength is in the subtlety with which it raises a question. What is chhotu thanking Kalam for? How would Dr. Kalam react if he actually met chhotu who labors at his tender age?

- meeta, a part of the audience

40 reviewers(?) - 34 yays 3 so-so 3 nays

Warning: clicking on "full review" will take you to an external website that could contain spoilers.

Thumbs up, by Anna Vetticad, annavetticadgoes2themovies : ...Equally enjoyable are the scenes in the dhaba where the white tourists all look and speak like real white tourists... full review

Thumbs up, by Aparajita Ghosh, Apun Ka Choice : ...inspiring... full review

Thumbs up, by Taran Adarsh, Bollywood Hungama : ...an inspiring and motivating film that deserves to be encouraged... full review

Thumbs up, Daily Bhaskar : ...a collage of beautiful moments.... full review

Thumbs up, by Nandita Dutta, DearCinema : ...a feel-good fable... full review

Thumbs up, by Payal Khanna, Desi Martini : ...Inspiration in the form of movie... full review

Thumbs up, by Aniruddha Guha, DNA : ...Try not to miss the beautiful I Am Kalam... full review

Thumbs up, by Rahul Gangwani, Filmfare : ...heartwarming and definitely worth a watch.... full review

Thumbs up, Free Press Journal : ...This film blends intelligence and emotions in he bright proportions. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Nupur Barua, fullhyd.com : ...This is Pitobash Tripathy's debut film, although Shor In The City was released first. The little man is a powerful actor, and does complete justice to his character of a disgruntled dhaba assistant. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Pankaj Sabnani, Glamsham.com : ...Harsh Mayar's shines and how! The National Award winner (well-deserved) plays his part very naturally.... full review

Thumbs up, by Pritam Roy, Gomolo.in : ...Gulshan as 'Not-the-bad man' is great.... full review

Thumbs up, by Rajeev Masand, IBN Live : ...charming little film... full review

Thumbs up, by Vinayak Chakravorty, india today : ...For a film shot on a shoestring budget, I Am Kalam looks polished.... full review

Thumbs up, by Shubhra Gupta, indian express : ...Mayar, who is a real-life slumchild, is endearingly life-like. So is his royal-blood companion, the lonely `kunwar’ of a Rajasthan princely estate, who finds a friend in the unlettered Kalam.... full review

Thumbs up, by Shubha Shetty-Saha, MiD DAY : ...Gulshan Grover as a kind man, who has a secret crush on a French woman Lucy (Beatrice Ordeix), is very good as usual.... full review

Thumbs up, Movie Talkies : ...hat Grover has always made a mark when cast in positive roles, like he is here, and must get into them more often.... full review

Thumbs up, Mumbai Mirror : ...a dignified, heartwarming, little film; the story of a boy from the hinterland, the 'other' India, dreaming of one day becoming an educated citizen who matters in tomorrow's world;... full review

Thumbs up, by Saibal Chatterjee, NDTV : ...I Am Kalam draws its lifeblood primarily from the innate authenticity of its tangible characters and the sustained evenness of its pragmatic tone. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Subhash K Jha, Now Running.com : ...The last shot shows the 'prince' and the 'pauper' traveling happily together in the same school bus. Socialism has arrived. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Mansha Rastogi, Now Running.com : ...What takes the cake in this film is the spell binding cinematography Mohana Krishna who captures the heart of Rajasthan stupendously.... full review

Thumbs up, by Namrata Joshi, Outlook India : ...A straight, simple story with no great highs and lows and an easy resolution.... full review

Thumbs up, by Shaikh Ayaz, Rediff : ...In the end, what contributes to I Am Kalam immensely is its metaphor of Kalam, the scientist with an almost magical ability to bind people, especially children.... full review

Thumbs up, by Khalid Mohamed, Review and views uncensored : ...Anyone whose heart goes out to the urgent need for child literacy in the nation’s interior lands, should catch Kalam Jr asap. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Ruchi Mehta, Roochster : ...As a movie, I thought it started off beautifully with the Rajasthani folk music playing in the background which continued till the end. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Sonia Chopra, Sify Movies : ...The film is abundant with rich cinematography (Mohana Krishna), vibrant music (Sushmit Bose, Abhskek Ray; background score by Deepak Pandit), and clever sound design (Kaamod Kharade). ... full review

Thumbs up, by K N Gupta, SmasHits.com : ...Incidentally, the movie’s plot is written in a very simple language. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Janhvi Patel, StarBoxOffice : ...There are so many rich emotional moments that will overwhelm you... full review

Thumbs up, by K K Rai, STARDUST : ...A good flick.... full review

Thumbs up, The Friday Freak : ...There are just two songs in the movie, and both of them are not the singing around the garden type songs.... full review

Thumbs up, by Sudhish Kamath, The Hindu : ...Kalam does not care about winning himself. He is confident. He knows he will reach his destination some day. And wants his best friend to win, whether it is a French test or a Hindi elocution contest in school.... full review

Thumbs up, by Nikhat Kazmi, Times of India : ...inspirational, intelligent, topical and entertaining too... full review

Thumbs up, by Shoma A Chatterji, Upper Stall : ...Sanjoy Dasgupta’s production design specially of the bhatti and the room Haddi and Chhotu share with charpais scattered outside for the customers, the menu board, slogans announcing the excellence of Bhatti’s wonderful tea is excellent.... full review

Thumbs up, by SpiceZee Bureau, Zee News : ...The dream in Chhotu’s eyes, who calls himself a reflection of Dr. Kalam, touches the right chords. ... full review

So-So, by Bobby Sing, Bobby Talks Cinema.com : ...A sweet, simple movie which reminded me of Raj Kapoor's "Ab Dilli Door Nahin" but nothing exceptional... full review

So-So, by Ameetbhuvan, Desi Martini : ...Endearing and Warm... full review

So-So, by Deepa Deosthalee, Film Impressions : ...Debutant director Nila Madhab Panda's I Am Kalam is unusual for one reason alone. It allows a child from a remote corner of the country to idolise, not Amitabh Bachchan (like his older co-worker played by Pitobash does), or Sachin Tendulkar or Shah Rukh Khan, but India's former President APJ Abdul Kalam, a man while being hugely inspirational (particularly for children), isn't the likeliest candidate for the job.... full review

Thumbs down, by Rony D'Costa, Desi Martini : ...Earnest but not engaging... full review

Thumbs down, by Mrigank Dhaniwala, koimoi : ...Hussan Saad (as Ranvijay) does a competent job. ... full review

Thumbs down, by Sanjukta Sharma, Live Mint : ...There’s no problem with a simple fairy tale meant for a cause, but when it reinforces the worst kind of stereotypes associated with the ideas of a country and how white-skinned tourists are in less developed parts of the world, it is thoughtless film-making.... full review

85 tweeters(?) - 84 yays 0 so-so 1 nays

watelseshldido: #JustWatched I am Kalam. Awesome experience.!! Amazing film!!

vinaykumar346: I AM KALAM watch it guys........

Vikasnowal: Turned another usual weekend with an interesting experience to end it,saw “I am Kalam” & impressed with the way it has come up. Great effort

TheRaascal: I Am Kalam -A sweet story sweet hero a sweet message, Do watch guys tomorrow

TheBOON4all: Yaahhh its a superb movie RT @BeyShaRam: RT @ankash1009: All of you film champions, go watch "I am Kalam".great effort by Neel Madhab Panda

swarna04: "I Am Kalam" is a good watch I must say! Good story line and very relevant too

suryadeep_ag: "I am Kalam" .... Must watch

soumikrash: I AM KALAM is a sweet little film.dont miss!

sonicanowal: Nw wtchin "I am kalam"...gr8 movie!!!

smartmanas: watched... I AM KALAM... fantastic movie... hats off to NILA MADHAB PANDA>>>

singhcd: #singhcdFILMreviews I am kalam - a little film wid a big heart.A gut warming film dat doesn't preaches but puts d msg across in a subtle way

singh_dr: Also, I Am Kalam was Beautiful :) Go watch.

sindhudegapudi: 'I am Kalam' a must watch :)

Sid_breathacker: "i am kalam"...a must watch.. <3d it :)

Sethumadhavan: I am Kalam- a wonderful film that thankfully doesn't get into the emotional zone for comfort and yet delivers !!!

seghu: Must watch "I am Kalam". :)

Saumil_J: "i Am Kalam"; it says many things but in most simple way.

SaudMusheer: Watch "I am Kalam" #HighlyRecommended

SaikatGochhait: I Am Kalam is a winner...every Indian in spirit because it deals with a very Indian problem -- of widespread illiteracy and poverty..watch

rjmanoj: I am kalam ...amazing film please go and watch it

RjDhvanit: I am Kalam - 4 mirchis out of 5. Direct Dil Se! Not preachy kinds at all! Simple and brilliant narrative. Nice... https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=10150237418525834&id=81800370833

riyaaz: "I am Kalam" was inspirational, rustic and humorous

ritika2611: Attempt #2: Saturday.. 4:45pm..'I Am Kalam'.. Six people in the hall and what a Beautiful film! #Nagpur, you'r missing out on something!

risingmarz: Indian cinema at it's best... Remarkable work.. I AM KALAM .. Loved it!!

riflemati: ‎"I Am Kalam" another awesome and Inspirational movie in recent times after Chillar party...A (cont) http://www.twitlonger.com/show/c6igtp

ReedhimaChandra: Just was the movie "I am Kalam" liked it !!

RajVaish: So.. I am kalam... Is a little slow... Yea.. But whatsoever lovely peaceful light n all of dat.!

raise_india: I AM KALAM is an inspiring film that needs to be encouraged. Reccomended!

pradnyayedavi: I am Kalam ......awesome movie...... and luvd Rajasthan.. wht a beautiful place to live in..

nroopbhavsar: Just watched "I am Kalam". Beautiful. Indian cinema at one of its best. @mitulsuthar thank you for recommendation. ☺ http://myloc.me/mobile.php?id=me0P0

nmahalle: "I am Kalam" - #Inspirational & Heartwarming . A must watch #Hindi #movie

NinadKarpe: Saw movie "I am Kalam" over the weekend. Simple, wonderful!

Nikhil_Dwivedi: I am kalam - a super movie guys! ;)

Navin_kumarv: 'I am Kalam' a charming little film

mishrasid: a ngo can make a classic cult movie like i am kalam but big banners like yrf amking craps like luv ka the end strange bollywood

MaYaNkThEcUtE: just watched a beautiful film- I AM KALAM

mayankdixit7: i am kalam is awesome :)

maur908: I am Kalam ...a must watch...

ManseeT: "i am kalam" a nice, simple movie with scenic rajasthan as the background :)

manishroy: Just watched 'I am Kalam'...got overwhelmed!

manishchodhary: Singham+ZNMD+Ready+Dabang+Delh​i Belly= I am Kalam,watchd today..fantastic movie

latikamoehta: I Am Kalam is an honest & sweet film.Watch it! #kalamrocks

kunaljp: I Am Kalam is a beautiful film

krishdk: I Am Kalam: A sweet film with a good heart. The kid is adorable. @pitobash congratulations!

krezboom: http://ping.fm/KBSO6 Review Try Not To Miss The Beautiful I Am Kalam Daily News Analysis

kaliom: Watch 'I am Kalam' ..nothing more to say bout..feel good movie..lil Iranian movie feel about it..

Jagmohan2170: i am kalam is nice move

iPaatil: 'I Am Kalam' leaves you uplifted and positive. Don't miss it. | My review - @aniguha @RelianceEnt

himanshuvora: I Am Kalam is rocking! Pls go watch it! Don't miss in theatre. Loved it. Kudos Nila Madhab Panda & team. Thank you for this film! #in

Himanshukjain: I am Kalam. Just overwhelmed with the poignant innocence of this gem of movie. Touches deepest core of the heart. 5/5

Hemant_0011: I AM kALAM very nice and messageful movie

harshal168: Bdw Loved I am Kalam..a must watch!! @sanketFMS U should watch this one..loved it!

gauravtiwari505: I am Kalam :) awesome

FaridoonS: Do try n catch 'I Am Kalam'.Its a film that touches a chord.A bit slow but u leave d cine hall with a smile.

DiscoFighter1: I Am Kalam. A movie everyone should check out and not underestimate! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOZ3qQi24I8&feature=related

dhruvis: I Am Kalam is a very sweet film. Watch it if you can. :)

dhaasu_vasu: I am kalam a nice movie.

deviant5: Watched a movie called "I am Kalam" with yp. Loved it :-)

deepsinside: 'I Am Kalam'.. beautifully made! well crafted. #HarshMayar is a wonder kid :) Dont miss it :) kudos to #SmileFoundation. #IAmKalam #Educate

Dakoohaseena: I am Kalam - refreshingly nice!

creativepagal: i watched I Am Kalam last year at IFFI and its really amazing movie

Claramusician: The best thing of having an open heart is the fascinating things you can find around! I recommend this hindi movie: "I Am Kalam".

chonmore: Every parent should watch the movie 'I am Kalam' with their children...

chirag585: Amazing Movie- I AM KALAM !!!

chandrangshum: Just saw d film I Am Kalam...nice 1.

bollywood_life: I AM KALAM Review: The film is a winning proposition: The film more than makes up for its failings with sheer he... http://www.bollywoodlife.com/news-gossip/i-am-kalam-review-the-film-is-a-winning-proposition/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=bollywood

bobspop: i am kalam has been made with a very noble thought.superb thaught worth applauding

bizzarebhide: I Am Kalam garnering excellent reviews. Saw the movie months ago .. Folks, do go watch it; its small little gem that will touch your heart.

bewitched931: i am kalam. Awesome movie!

barmecharajat: Saw 'I am Kalam' ....excellent film...great performances...Go, watch it guys :))))

ashokkw: I AM KALAM - must watch movie... Harsh Mayar has done justice to the role...

arnabBj: "I am Kalam" Dont ignore this kind of movie, and when @shreyaghoshal gives her voice in a movie, dont dare to miss it.

Appy_apps: watched "I am Kalam"...lovely movie....true emotions!!

ankitkchaudhary: 'I am Kalam' BEAUTIFUL movie...'mutthi me kuchh ho na ho, In ankhon me he sapana', aftr long time, BEAUTIFUL.I mean it !

ankash1009: All of you film champions, go watch "I am Kalam".. great effort by Neel Madhab Panda..

AniGuha: 'I Am Kalam' is such a cute, heartwarming film, you wish more and more people watch it.

amitjaju: Just attended the premier of "I am Kalam"...amazing film...highly recommend everybody to catch it this weekend...its beautiful.

AkshayAnant: Try, if possible, to watch the movie "I AM KALAM"... Even Big B has tweeted much about it some days before... "I AM KALAM" releases 2mrw...

advantej1: 'I Am Kalam' is a charming, heartwarming tale. You'll be glad you didn't miss this!

aditya_grover: Brief review of this week's releases I AM KALAM: A heart-warming script, put up beautifully on the celluloid.... http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=194119&l=7e98c0dbb1&id=101967029898190

aaroo4: If u don't watch delhi belly/znmd/veppam/etcetc its alright,but watch this movie.☺ An absolute must watch- "I am kalam.."

_Outlier: 'I Am Kalam' is such a brilliant, cute film.

_maroo: I am Kalam is a heart warming film.

_gags: saw "I am Kalam" now...a well made movie....There is no destiny everything is karma

elitistcaveman: Could not stand 'I am Kalam'. Why do we feel the need to portray this romanticized version of India to charm foreigners?

1 readers - 1 yays 0 so-so 0 nays

Yay! Thumbs Up, by Saurabh Sengupta : luv you chhotu

This page has additional observations, other than the ones noted in the main review.

Plot Summary

9-10 year-old Chhotu works at a roadside dhaba. He is enthusiastic about life but is pulled down by the people around him.

What Worked

  • Close-up shot of marbles.
  • The Karni Maata temple as a choice for one of the locations.

What did not

Note: This section simply lists the things that I did not like in this movie. This is not the overall impression about this movie. Please read the full review here

  • The random use of Rajasthani (marwadi) words.
  • The philosophy about changing times being talked over a game of chess. Very arbitrary.
  • How can a teacher ask a 9-10 year old boy to prepare for an "inter-school" competition by himself, just one day in advance?
  • Why was Rannvijay Singh walking like he had hurt his back? Or was he imitating the style in which his father might have walked?!

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: A fist fight between a child and a young guy.
  • Language: Clean
  • Nudity & Sexual content: None.
  • Concept: A soft portrayal of the problem of child labor.
  • General Look and Feel: Bright and upbeat.

Detailed Ratings (out of 5):

Lead Actors:
Character Artists:
Music Director:

I am Kalam - Cast, crew, links

Background Score:
Music Director:
Costume Designer:
Running time:
100 minutes

Comments (2)

Click here for new comment

loved this movie

@Garud you are right. The problem is that not all reviewers give stars, so I needed to come up with a scheme that gave an overall opinion of a film. I could not make it on a scale of 5 because for the ones that do not have a rating, it would be very difficult for me to judge whether the reviewer felt that the film was a 2.5 or a 3 or a 3.5. Hence, this in-between.

And yes, I should have a page that describes how this rating is arrived at. Will get on it soon. Thanks.

Leave a Comment