Pras on WorldFilms: AMAL (Hindi / Canadian)

AMAL is a 2007 Canadian drama film directed and written by Toronto-based filmmakeramal2 Richie Mehta. Set in modern-day New Delhi, India, it tells the story of a poor autorickshaw driver. The plot relies on several unlikely coincidences in Delhi, a city of nearly 14 million people, but it’s a welcome departure from the predictable rags-to-riches story.

Amal Kumar (Rupinder Nagra), the hardworking rickshaw driver commits his days to ensuring the safety and well being of his passengers. His random acts of kindness are observed by an eccentric, ageing billionaire, who masquerades as a beggar in order to find a worthy heir to his fortune. This contemporary fairy tale takes place on the streets of New Delhi, and suggests that ‘sometimes the poorest of men are the richest’.

nagraFrom its initial frames, “Amal” conveys a vivid sense of daily street-level existence in the Indian capital, where kindly, bearded Amal Kumar (Nagra) drives passengers in the auto-rickshaw he inherited from his late father. When one of his regular fares, beautiful, headstrong store-owner Seth (Koel Purie), loses her purse to a young street urchin, Priya (Tanisha Chatterjee), Amal chases the thief on foot, only to watch in horror as she’s struck by an oncoming vehicle.

amal

Kind-hearted Amal visits the girl, Priya (Tanisha Chatterjee) in hospital, discovers she’s an orphan who works for a crime boss known as The Godfather, and bribes a nurse to take extra good care of her.  The precocious Priya seems to recover quickly but doctors inform Amal she needs an expensive life-saving operation.

His fundamentally generous nature is also revealed in his treatment of another passenger, amala curmudgeonly person (Naseeruddin Shah), whose tetchy insults and impatience fail to penetrate Amal’s calm, deferential attitude. As he sets out to raise the money for Priya’s expensive life-saving operation, we learn that the curmudgeonly vagabond he had driven around is in fact G.K. Jayaram, a dying millionaire. G.K. had been searching for Delhi’s ‘only honest man,” and found him in Amal.

G.K. has changed his will to leave his fortune to the humble rickshaw driver – on the condition that his lawyers find the lad within 30 days of his death. His lawyer asks G.K.’s former business partner, Suresh (Roshan Seth) to locate Amal. But Suresh conspires with his greedy nephew, one of the old man’s sons, to keep the money.

The script thus develops into two races against time: While Amal struggles to raise moneyamal for Priya’s operation, G.K.’s lawyer (Seema Biswas) tries to find the generically named rickshaw driver to whom her client unexpectedly left his vast fortune. Thrown into the mix is a cliched subplot involving G.K.’s scheming son Vivek (Vik Sahay) who wants his rightful share of inheritance. Also is the fact that Amal seeks financial help for Priya’s operation from the same crime boss to whom Vivek owes gambling debts.

Rupinder Nagra brings a serene wisdom to Amal that captivates and transports us. The life-affirming story evokes lingering vestiges of the caste system and examines a family in which wealth creates nothing but the hunger for more. At the end of his life, the patriarch holds up a mirror to the world he inhabited as a tycoon but departed as an ascetic. Amal is an inadvertent inspiration to Jayaram, for Amal has always known something that the rich man only just learned; we are defined as much by what we sacrifice as we are by what we possess.The supporting cast brims with sterling Indian vets \who are hard-edged but essentially decent, from Purie’s feisty businesswoman and Naseeeruddin Shah’s belligerent benefactor to Seema Biswas’ highly principled attorney.

 

Directed by Richie Mehta
Produced by Steven Bray
Written by Richie Mehta
Shaun Mehta
Starring Rupinder Nagra
Naseeruddin Shah
Seema Biswas
Koel Purie
Vik Sahay
Roshan Seth
Music by Dr. Shiva
Cinematography Mitchell Ness
Edited by Stuart A. McIntyre
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