Chhotu (the lead character in I Am Kalam) and I both found a role model in the former President. He named himself Kalam, and I am known as the boy who played the role of Kalam,” said Harsh Mayar, who played the role of Chhotu in Nila Madhab Panda’s award-winning film I Am Kalam, which released in 2011.
Harsh, whom we recently met at a community radio channel’s event in Noida, told us that he came to Delhi to pay tribute to his hero. “My mom told me that the mortal remains of the former President were to be brought to his Rajaji Marg home, so I took a flight to Delhi. I was not surprised to see thousands of people at his home, but what touched me was that people were crying like babies as if their world had ended with Kalam. Many kids and youngsters stood in a queue for hours to get a last glimpse of the Missile Man,” Harsh said.
Talking about his first meeting with Dr Kalam, he said, “When Panda sir first introduced me to Kalam sir, he asked me, ‘So, you are junior Kalam?’ I kept smiling, I didn’t know how to greet him. He was happy about the film, and watched the trailer with us.”
Harsh added, “In one scene, when I was being beaten, he remarked, ‘Arre, junior Kalam ki pitayi ho rahi hai’, and laughed, and everyone in the room burst into laughter.”
The actor said that even though he didn’t have a close relationship with Kalam, it now seems that he has known him forever. He admitted that he didn’t know much about the former President when he was offered the film. “Maine koi books nahi padhi thi, mujhe kuch bhi nahi pata tha. On the sets of the film, with the briefings from Nila Madhab, Kalam sir grew on me. I was living Kalam, he was inspiring me every moment. Main Kalam ko jee raha tha, aur unko jaan raha tha. After the film, my life changed, I started dreaming big, I still do,” Harsh said.
He wants his film to be released again. “Kaash meri film ek baar phir se release ho jaye, chhoti films ko promotion nahin mil pata, aaj log phir se dekhenge toh Kalam sir ko yaad karenge. I got my identity because of him, industry mein bhi log mujhe jante hai unke naam se – ‘woh ladka jisne Kalam ka role kiya tha’. It’s an honour,” he said.
Abdul Kalam gifted him his autobiograph,y Wings Of Fire, which Harsh read after finishing the movie and now calls Kalam the hero of every Indian. “Other countries have Superman, Spiderman, Batman, but we Indians don’t have a superhero. Humara hero kaun hai? Shaktimaan? He is the Missile Man. We have all seen him. He was our own Superman,” he said.
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