‘I Am Kalam’ to be a trilogy: Director (Interview)

By Robin Bansal, IANS
Tuesday, November 16, 2010

NEW DELHI - Nila Madhab Panda’s debut Hindi project “I Am Kalam” - whose first part is inspired by the life of the former president A.P.J.Abdul Kalam - is yet to be released in India, but the award winning director is already working on two more films to make a trilogy on the lives of helper boys, popularly called “chhotus” .

“It will be a trilogy. I am working on both the stories (part II and part III) and it will be like (Satyajit Ray’s) Apu trilogy on the growth of the main character and different facets of his life,” Panda, 37, told IANS in an interview.

“The sequels won’t be inspired by Kalam unlike the first part. The trilogy will actually concentrate on the story of chhotus and facets of their life in different parts of the country,” said Panda.

“I will start shooting the second part early next year,” he said.

Panda, who hails from Orissa, has produced and directed over 60 documentaries, short films, television drama and films for national broadcasters in the last 12 years.

Produced by Smile Foundation, a national development organisation, “I Am Kalam” is a movie on the plight of the underprivileged and highlights how the privileged can play a role to uplift the former.

“The idea of the film is to give a message that every child should go to school which is relevant to the right to education and that effort is more powerful than fate. It also urges the privileged masses to join the effort to educate the children and help them to dream and turn their dreams into breathing reality,” said Panda.

“At the same time it celebrates the survival of the human spirit against overwhelming odds like poverty, child labour, illiteracy, class system, etc. It is like a fairytale about how a child reacts to things, with a positive tone despite the serious issues it touches.”

The movie marks the debut of Delhi-based 12-year-old underprivileged child Harsh Mayyar in the lead and French theatre actress Beatrice Ordeix. Gulshan Grover and child actor Hussan Saad play pivotal roles. It is tentatively slated for release early next year.

Told in the classic prince-and-the-pauper format, it is set in Bikaner, Rajasthan, and revolves around the trials and tribulations of the protagonist Chhotu’s struggle for education after he gets inspired by former president Kalam.

“I was looking for an inspiring character who people really know and who can really inspire audiences. Even during the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games, everyone cheered and clapped when they saw Kalam. He is a living legend and the film is inspired by him,” said Panda.

Having won three international awards, “I Am Kalam” is winning kudos in the world film festival circuit. It was also screened in the Marche Du section at the 63rd Cannes International Film Festival this year.

“The movie’s journey to different festivals has proved that children’s cinema is important, independent Indian cinema, cause-based cinema is important and that there is an audience for these kinds of movies,” said Panda, who has already managed to sell the outing in countries like Taiwan, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Apart from the other two instalments in the “I Am Kalam” trilogy, his future projects also include a movie on the urban loneliness post- Commonwealth Games in Delhi and an international co-production.

A UN audio-visual award winner (2002), he has to his credit awards like Heroism in Cinematography 2003 and the UK Environment Film Fellowship 2005. He has also made the independent Hollywood movie “The Woman from Georgia”, starring Philip Reevs. It is still awaiting release.

His works include documentaries and short films like “Climate’s First Orphans”, “Smile Again”, “New Horizon”, “21st Century Folktale” and TV shows like “Aatmaja” on female foeticide.

(Robin Bansal can be contacted at robin.b@ians.in)

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