This movie was released this year and there are many many wonderful things about it. When my son told me to see it, I thought it was a biographical sketch on APJ Abdul Kalam, our former president. But it is anything but! It is many stories in one.
It is the story of brave Rajput Princes reduced to running heritage hotels for white tourists., and coming to terms with “changed times” and “equality”.
It is the story of “white tourists” and their search for “Indian Experiences” with out connecting to India at all in the way only they can. Connection requires empathy, shared experiences, shared feelings.
It is the story of a dhaba owner who mistakes the platonic hugs of a french tourist lady as a genuine love for himself and is devastated to learn that she is a married lady. His heart is a casualty to globalisation and low airfares and cross-cultural shock.
It is the story of a mother, who puts her intelligent young son to work in a dhaba, so that she can repay loans and take care of the young daughter.
It is the story of a little rajput prince who longs for a friend in his lustreless life and finds a great one in Chotu.
It is the story of how our former president Sri Kalam inspires a little boy called chotu to “get an education” for himself, so that the entire Indian Army will one day salute him! He even combs his hair like the president and tells everyone his name is Kalam.
Chottu a delightful and self-assured and extremely intelligent kid, learns languages from tourists and picks up a lot of knowledge from books that he is given by the little prince and others. If there is an honest bundle of integrity, confidence and grit that represents my image of young Indian boys, it is Chotu as played By Harsh Mayar, who is incidentally on facebook! (Harsh Mayar himself was an underprivileged kid from a redevelopment cluster society in Delhi and represents millions who aspire and hold Dr. Kalam as their role model.)
It is the story of a Lakshmi a rentable camel that Chotu helps cure and Laptan, a young man-helper in the dhaba, who hasn’t given any thought to improving his mind. He thinks dreaming of Amitabh Bacchanji and other movie heroines will make him a great man and who can be terrified by ghostly noises!
It is the story of the message Sri Kalamji has given young minds – “a goal, an education, hard work and ( as usual I forget the last one )..” Try this site : http://www.abdulkalam.com/kalam/
.. and the gratitude a young boy Chotu has for that message…enough to take him to Delhi to thank Kalamji for ‘changing his life’.
I could not watch this movie without melting to tears a couple of times.
I am also attaching a video clip of the peacock feather fan selling boy who knows more languages than I know the names of!