July issue 2009

By | Arts & Culture | Movies | Published 15 years ago

Toronto-based filmmaker Richie Mehta originally made Amal as a short in 2004. With input from Shaun Mehta, Richie’s brother, the short was later expanded into feature-length film and released in theatres in 2008. Filmed in English and Hindi, Amalsnapped up the best feature film award at the River to River Indian Film Festival in Italy, in 2008.

Shot in Delhi by a Canadian and Indian crew, Amalfollows the simple daily life of the title character (Rupinder Nagra), a kind, bearded auto-rickshaw driver. Dedicated to his job, Amal is a happy and content man despite his humble means. One day, Amal picks up an eccentric passenger G.K. Jayaram (Naseeruddin Shah). Disguised as a tramp, G.K is actually a millionaire who, in the twilight of his life, wanders the streets of Delhi in search for the world’s last good man. An uncomplaining, unselfish Amal seems to fit the bill and is the unknowing beneficiary of G.K.’s vast fortune.

Amal, meanwhile, is busy nursing a young street child Priya (Tanisha Chatterjee), taking responsibility for her medical bills and revealing his fundamentally generous nature in the process. The movie thus develops into two races against time. While Amal struggles to raise money for Priya’s operation, G.K.’s attorney Sapna Agarwal (Seema Biswas) tries to find this mysterious rickshaw driver to whom her client unexpectedly left his wealth. In a subplot, G.K.’s scheming son Vivek (Vik Sahay) along with GK’s shady business partner Suresh (Roshan Seth), plan to take over G.K.’s entire empire by any means necessary.

The ending might not satisfy all viewers, but shows admirable devotion to the film’s central concept: sometimes the poorest of men have the richest lives. Overall, Amal is packed with strongly crafted performances. While the Canadian-based Rupinder Nagra comes out a clear winner, the entire ensemble is dynamic and convincing. Veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah plays his role with strong conviction. Koel Purie is sweet and attractive and Roshan Seth is at ease in his complex role.

In his Bollywood debut, Richie Mehta succeeds in delivering a message of hope and generosity in Amal, a movie that will stay with you for a long time.