Synopsis: A 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'.
A refreshingly original Indian melodrama.
It’s no Slumdog Millionaire but writer-director Richie Mehta’s engaging melodrama shares some common ground with the 2009 best Oscar winner. Both films focus on an impoverished kid who has the chance to improve his lot in life. Both delve into India’s criminal underbelly and both make inventive use of local music.
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.
A Toronto-based filmmaker, Mehta wrote the script for Amal with his brother Shaun. It’s a sweet-natured tale involving honesty, greed and murder. The protagonist is Amal Kumar (Rupinder Nagra, excellent), who ekes out a living driving a rickshaw which he inherited from his late father. Amal lives with his mother, who prays in vain each day for a daughter-in-law to materialize.
When one of his regular fares, a beautiful store-owner named Pooja (Köel Purie), has her purse stolen by a young street urchin, Amal gives chase, only to watch in horror as the child is struck by a car. 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.
As he sets out to raise the money, we learn that the curmudgeonly vagabond he had driven around is in fact G.K. Jayaram (Naseeruddin Shah), a dying millionaire. G.K. had been searching for Delhi’s “only honest man,” and found him in Amal.
G.K. changes 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.
A slowly-developing romance between the elegant, educated Pooja and the bearded, introverted Amal is a little hard to swallow: he, surely, is well below her in the Indian caste system. The villains are cartoonish but Seresh is a nicely nuanced character—and the ending is refreshingly original.
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