Stanley, Kalam, Books and a Lunchbox

Films that touch your heart…

Pic: I Am Kalam; Smile Foundation

There is Kalam and there is Stanley… one gets to eat but not study, the other gets to go to a school but doesn’t get enough food. I Am Kalam and Stanley Ka Dabba are two brilliant films that sensitively portray issues like hunger, child labour and poverty. However, none go into the depressing documentary mode and the mood in both the films is uplifting, even if they leave your eyes moist.

Directed by Nila Madhab Panda, I Am Kalam is a story about a poor Rajasthani boy named Chhotu who works at a dhaba (roadside food stall) and dreams of becoming a tie-wearing officer. He likes to study but has no means to fulfil his desire to go to a school. He is inspired by President APJ Abdul Kalam’s motivational words that there is nothing called destiny, your life is shaped by your karma (actions). He even names himself after the President and insists on being called Kalam. His learning continues as he interacts and learns from the foreigners who visit the dhaba. He also makes friends with a young prince from an erstwhile royal family who stays in the nearby palace turned heritage hotel.

The filmmaker portrays the stark contrast between the two Indias we live in through these two kids; one who has everything and the other bereft of his basic rights. Without any doubt, the film belongs to the two child artistes, Harsh Mayar (Chhotu / Kalam) and Hussan Saad (Prince Ranvijay); their performance is natural and effortless. In comparison, the adult supporting cast looks amateurish.   Do watch I Am Kalam for its simple story-telling and the big message.

Pic: Stanley Ka Dabba; FOX Star

The other film, Stanley Ka Dabba shows how well the director, Amole Gupte understands kids and how filmmaking can be all heart. As the name suggests, the film is about a school kid, Stanley and his lunch box, actually his non-existent lunch box. While his classmates are kind and share their dabbas (lunch boxes) with him; his Hindi teacher, Verma Sir aka Khadoos (Amole) disapproves and eats their food himself.

Filmed at an actual school during four hour workshops on Saturdays, Stanley Ka Dabba is a triumph of good story telling and simplicity. Partho Gupte is perfect as Stanley and the other kids who play his friends are equally endearing and at ease in front of the camera. Do catch the film on DVD if you missed it on big screen.

My rating:

I Am Kalam: * * * ½ Three and a half stars on five

Stanley Ka Dabba: * * * ½ Three and a half stars on five


3 Idiots


Smile, laugh and cry with these idiots…

Pic: Vinod Chopra Films

3 Idiots is easily one of the finest films in the last few years and what makes it special is its unabashedly commercial style. It is a film that everyone would like, just like Manmohan Desai’s films that made us laugh, cry, sing and dance, all in one go. Despite being a paisa-vasool entertainer, the film also carries a message – a message about our education system and the rat race we all are a part of. With this film, the director, Rajkumar Hirani has got a hat-trick of relevant yet commercially successful cinema; the first two being Munnabhai MBBS, which was a comment on the medical profession and Lage Raho Munnabhai that made Gandhi cool.

Loosely based on Chetan Bhagat’s best-selling novel, Five Point Someone, 3 Idiots is about three engineering students and their tryst with the archaic education system. While the issues raised in the film are serious, the treatment is extremely fun without losing the message. The film is hilarious for most parts but also brings tears in your eyes at one point. Rajkumar Hirani and Abhijit Joshi’s script is the real winner here; of course credit also goes to Chetan who came up with the idea and wrote the book.

Aamir Khan (Rancho), R Madhavan (Farhan) and Sharman Joshi (Raju) play students at Imperial College of Engineering, a fictitious institution that is supposed to be the best in the country. The villain in their life is the director of their college, Viru Sahastrabuddhe aka Virus (Boman Irani) who thinks life is a race and there is no place for number 2. Kareena Kapoor as Virus’ daughter, Pia adds the romantic angle to the film while Farhan and Raju’s family add the melodrama. Actually, Raju’s family adds more comic element than melodrama, do watch out for them. All actors have done a fantastic job in the film and are convincing as college kids despite the actual age difference. While the film focuses a lot on Aamir’s character; Boman Irani and Sharman Joshi shine with their stellar performances.

Technically also, the film is perfect with fine editing by Rajkumar Hirani and cinematography by C. K. Muraleedharan. What disappoints a bit is the music (Shantanu Moitra), which is not exactly memorable but it does sit well with the situations in the film.

Apart from all the masala in the film, what works well for 3 Idiots is the fact that it is so relatable and youth centric, the largest demography in India… from ragging to nagging parents; drinking with buddies to the stress brought by exams; 3 Idiots borrows heavily from the real life and presents it in a light hearted manner. Go watch it with your friends, family, teachers or whoever you can catch hold of… you’d regret if you miss this one.

My Rating: * * * * ½ Four and a half stars (on five)

Shrey Khetarpal