(14 November 2010)
He may be just 12 but Delhi slum boy Harsh Mayar, who plays the lead in the critically-acclaimed I Am Kalam, calls himself a struggling artist wanting to join the big league and inspired by the kid stars of Slumdog Millionaire.
“I have been struggling for a break for the past six years. I even went to Mumbai to try in (UTV Spotboy’s) Chillar Party but could not make the final cut,” says the class VIII student of Yogi Arvind Sarvodya Bal Vidyalaya School. Harsh plays the role of Chhotu, whose hunger for education, something which he cannot aspire to have because of penury, is the story of Nila Madhab Panda’s I Am Kalam set in Bikaner, Rajasthan. The poor boy is inspired by APJ Abdul Kalam so much so that he starts referring to himself by the name of the former president. Living in the Dakshinpuri slum area in New Delhi, Harsh dreams of being in Bollywood. “I always dream of acting, singing and dancing in Bollywood films. I watched Slumdog Millionaire many times. I wanted to do that kind of roles. And when I got this role I was very happy,” Harsh told PTI. His father Ashok runs a small business. Though he finds it difficult at times to make ends meet he always encourages his son to pursue his goal.
To chase his dream, the young boy has been participating in theatre workshops and reality shows. He reached the fourth round of Dance India Dance this year. In the film, Harsh works in a dhaba (owned by Gulshan Grover) and his life takes an unexpected turn when he befriends the son of an erstwhile king of a princely state. And when he reads his friend’s old books, he hopes of achieving his dream. Child star Hussan Saad, who was seen in Delhi 6, plays the role of the rich friend. “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,” says director Panda. Grover, who recently bagged a role with Hollywood siren Salma Hayek, says his role in I Am Kalam gave him a different kind of satisfaction.
“I have worked in over 400 films but working in movies of this genre gives you a rare kind of satisfaction. Necessity of proper education is something we should try to focus on more in our films,” he says.
The film has won a number of awards and recognitions on the international circuit. It won the best feature film at the Lucas International film festival in Germany, the prestigious Don Quijote Prize of the International Federation of Cine-Clubs (FICC) awards, the special mention at the Cinekid Film Festival and the audience award at Babican London Children’s Film festival. It will be showcased in a number of upcoming festivals in India and abroad including the International Film festival of India at Goa later this month. Produced by Smile Foundation, the film took six months to complete. 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 French actress Beatrice Ordeix who plays the role of a tourist.