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I am Kalam is the story of a child and his struggles to pursue his dreams and to surpass the boundaries of reality. It is a celebration of the human spirit pitted against overwhelming odds. Set in Bikaner, Rajasthan, the film revolves around the trials and tribulations of the protagonist – Chhotu’s, struggle for education. The central plot of the film is in sync with the recently enforced RTE Act and stands for thousands of such aspiring children of the country. It has a fairy tale treatment and a positive note despite the serious issues it touches.

The story of I am Kalam might have belonged to any developing country. The film focuses on child labour, its exploitative structure and thoughtless individuals, who aim at profiting through cheap labour. The Indian system – where love and oppression co-exist, continues even today. In India people rise from the ashes to reach various pinnacles of achievement, a case particularly exemplified by the former President of India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam. And this is exactly the inspiration that the protagonist in the film draws.

The film is an awaited treat for all those who love cinema based on social causes. It has received laudable recognition from both the national and international film fraternity. I am Kalam was premiered at the Marche Du section of the 63rd Cannes Film Festival. Following this, the film travelled across the world to many prestigious film festivals where it received an overwhelming response and 8 esteemed awards.

The film has won the award for the best feature film in the Lucas International Film Festival in Germany; the Don Quixote Prize of the International Cine Club Federations in Germany; Young Jury award at the International Film Festival of India in Goa; the “Audience Favorite”


Award at the Barbican London Children’s Film Festival Award; a Special Diploma for the Best Actor Work at Minsk International Film Festival Listapadzik; and the Best Debutant Director Award at the Chalachitra Film Society, Kerela. The film has also received a Special Mention at the Cinekid International Film Festival in Amsterdam and the Ale Kino International Film Festival in Poland, for its attempt to disseminate an important social message.

Apart from these awards the film got nominated for the Politiken Audience Award at the Buster Film Festival in Denmark, Cinekid Lion Award and Audience Award at the Cinekid International Film Festival in Amsterdam and the India Frame Showcase at Mumbai International Film Festival. I am Kalam also travelled to the Asia Pacific Screen Awards, Giffoni International Film Festival in Italy, BFI Times London Film Festival, Oulu International Children’s and Youth Film Festival, Kinder Festival in Vienna, Festicinekids in Columbia, the New York International Children Film Festival and the Kerela Film Festival.

I am Kalam is the perfect example of how far Indian Independent cinema can travel. It is a proof that Indian independent cinema, if created with the right kind of content, has great potential. In a country that produces the maximum number of films in the world every year, most films fail to succeed because of the lack of content. But films like I am Kalam are trying to change the trend.
I am Kalam is the feature debut of International Award winning director Nila Madhab Panda, who has produced and directed over 60 documentaries, short films, television drama and films for international and national broadcaster. It also marks the debut of Delhi-based-12 year old underprivileged child Harsh Mayar in the lead. This is also the first time ever that a development organization in India has produced a feature film.
With this film Smile is trying to reach out to people around the world drawing their attention to support the movement of educating every child in India to secure a better future. The protagonist’s story is the story of millions of children in India and is very close to the cause that Smile addresses.

Plain appeals no more stand a chance in grabbing attention of people in a world that is already exposed to extraordinary content. Smile Foundation has thus tried to package a very important call in a contemporary fable like manner in an attempt to reach out to the maximum number of people towards this cause.