Director and filmmaker Nila Madhab Panda of Sonepur district wins global award for “I Am Kalam”

October 7, 2010 at 4:31 pm 5 comments

Following report is from the

It is a wonder how life’s seemingly mundane experiences spur profound milestones in the journey to self-discovery. Filmmaker Nila Madhab Panda would certainly have a lot to say on that. The 37-year-old’s I Am Kalam is well on its way for an exclusive screening at the world’s biggest children festival  — The National School Film Week, London — on October 14.

Already riding on strong promise, the film, produced by Smile Foundation, has managed to bag the best feature film award and the Don Quixote Prize of the International Cine Club Federation at the Lucas Film Festival, Frankfurt Germany. “I come from one of India’s poorest regions, a remote village in Orissa’s Sonepur district. I know about daily struggle. But I also know what aspiration is. It’s a story of struggle that I have faced in my childhood,” says Panda. “I’m an eternal positivist. There is so much of negativity today, be it climate change or corruption. But I look at the spirit that instills fighting instincts against overwhelming odds,” he adds.

Strong on the social message of the need for education, the film is a celebration of struggle, aspiration and success. It also has a strong take on child labour, the exploitative Indian system and the thoughtless individual.

The cast includes Harsh Mayar, a 10-year-old boy from a Delhi slum, actor Gulshan Grover and French actor Beatrice. The film was inspired by Panda’s encounter with a young boy ten years back which has been superimposed with the life and character of former president APJ Kalam. Kalam’s quintessential thesis has been his firm belief that every individual in life is endowed with special qualities or a unique ‘fire’, and that the purpose of one’s life is to develop these attributes or ‘to give wings to this fire.’

The child protagonist in the film, Chhotu, works as an errand boy in a roadside dhaba. His name is suggestive of a generic identity for all child workers where no one gives a damn about them. He recognises his life’s purpose when he’s asked: “What is your real name?” He realises that he wants a real name with a character, unlike the countless faceless Chhotus. He needs a hero and finds his answer on TV — APJ Kalam, a man who scaled the pinnacle of achievement, an individual who financed his school fees by selling newspapers.

I Am Kalam had its world premiere at the Marche du Section of the Cannes film festival this year. Having produced and directed over 65 documentaries, shorts and films across the globe, Panda is a promise among India’s emerging generation of young filmmakers. His contemporary storytelling methods offer a skillful and visually striking edge to social themes.

Following report is from (Kalam continues to inspire, now on reel):

Balangir, Sept. 19: Former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s “early life and vision” has been captured on reel to convey the message of education to the deprived millions in India.

The film I am Kalam is already going places and has won the best feature film award and the Don Quixote Prize at the Lucas International Film Festival in Germany.

Produced by the Smile Foundation and Eleeanora Images Private Limited, the film had its world premiere at the 63rd Cannes Film Festival last May and will now be screened at the prestigious London Children Film Festival and Asia Pacific Screen Award. Few, however, know that Nila Madhab Panda, co-producer and director of the film, hails from a non-descript village in Sonepur district.

Set in Rajasthan, the film is the story of Chhotu alias Kalam, who cannot aspire for education because of his family’s poverty-stricken status. Through an entertaining and fast-paced narrative, the film takes the viewer to the world of Chhotu, who at one point starts referring to himself as Kalam after watching the missile man speak on television about how he got his education fighting several odds.

Panda said: “Naming himself Kalam has more than a symbolic meaning for Chhotu, a name thrust upon him by customers at the dhaba who, like most of us, insensitively calling all of them ‘Chhotu’ or the small one.”

Chhotu’s life takes an unexpected turn as he befriends Prince Ranvijay. His father, an erstwhile “king” of a princely state, runs a heritage hotel at his ancestral palace across the street, where Chhotu goes to deliver tea to the guests.

The kids bond big time and Chhotu starts getting his education informally, courtesy Ranvijay’s old books and interaction with costumers.

The film strikes a chord with the viewers thanks to the heart-touching acting by Delhi slum boy Harsh Mayar. Mayar as Chhotu represents, in a way, millions of other kids who could become Kalams but for the unfortunate circumstances they find themselves in.

Panda said, “The film is a story of struggle that I have faced and observed since my own childhood. The film celebrates the spirit of survival against overwhelming odds.” Panda’s father Aditya Prasad said: “I am proud that my son never studied in famous schools and colleges but has managed to achieve what many would be dreaming of. After completing his college studies, he asked me for Rs 2,000 to go to Delhi. And there he has carved a niche for himself.” 


Entry filed under: Balangir, Inspiring Stories, Nila Madhab Panda, Film maker and director of Sonepur, Region watch, Subarnapur.

Students of Government College Sundargarh demand appointment to the vacant faculty posts Meet Nilamadhab Panda film maker and director from Sonepur, western Orissa;Nila Madhab Panda’s I AM KALAM wins two international awards

5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Parshurampanda  |  October 8, 2010 at 11:05 am

    I knw mr panda’s name from my elder brother 5yrs back. what he has achieved is really inspiring for the younger generation. He has proved that nothing is impossible provided u r committed and determined. Mr. Panda is a pride for the people of orissa.

  • 2. Nabin Chandra Sadhu  |  October 8, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    I am surprised to learn that a world famous film director emerged from Western Odisha. I convey my heartfull congratulations to Sri Panda and wish many more laurels for him.It is my desire to show this inspiring film to my 300 poor slum children some day,when it comes to my town-Nabarangpur.

    • 3. sanjibkarmee  |  October 8, 2010 at 4:07 pm

      Many famous directors and producers are from Western Orissa. Another popular director Mr. Sabyasachi Mahapatra is from Lehedi near Sonepur.

  • 4. biren das  |  October 8, 2010 at 6:24 pm


  • 5. Radheshyam Purohit,freelance science writer  |  October 19, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    I am glad when know that one world class film director & producer emerges from sonepur. and best wishes for his glories future.

    Radheshyam Purohit.
    Freelance Science Writer,


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