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The house of Kalam

The house of Kalam in Rameshwaram holds a fond memory for the production crew of a documentary on APJ Abdul Kalam. They called the documentary Kuruthu, and it is a life sketch on him from his Rameshwaram to his Rasthrapati Bhavan days.

“We, four young men from Coimbatore landed in Rameshwaram late in the night on July 27, 2003,” recalls K. Ramasubramanian, one of the crew members.

As the next day happened to be Mahalaya Amavasya, lakhs of devotees from all over the country had also turned up at Rameshwaram to take a holy dip in the sea early next day. The hotels were full up and the crew found no accommodation. “Kalam sir’s family welcomed us, a team of 10 members, to their ancestral home,” says Ramasubramaniam.

He remembers it as a small house that carried a board that said ‘House of Kalam’. “The family arranged for snacks in the middle of the night and took very good care of us. The entire crew stayed overnight at Dr.Kalam’s ancestral house. ”

At 4 a.m. the next morning, the film crew kick started their documentary with a shot of the sunrise. Then, they moved to the elementary school where Dr.Kalam studied. They interviewed his family members, friends, and relatives at the ancestral house. They also interviewed Dr. Sheerkali Shiva Chidambaram (who was there at Rameshwaram that day). He shared his experience of interacting with Dr.Kalam about music.

Later portions of the documentary were shot at Schwartz High School in Ramanathapuram where Dr.Kalam did his higher education, at St.Joseph’s College in Trichy, MIT in Chennai, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Kerala, ISRO in Bangalore, and at Rashtrapati Bhavan where he lived as a President. Ramasubramanium says interviews with the head master, college principal, professors and students, helped them learn more about his personality. “It was a unique experience. A first-hand account of how humble a man he was.”

Ramasubramaniam mentions that it was a video interview which Dr Kalam for their video magazine Pattaampoochi (run exclusively for children) that inspired his team to make a documentary on him. “Kalam gave an encouraging response to the interview. That’s when we sought his permission him to make a documentary on him. He was reluctant. But, when we told him it is for education purpose, he agreed. We were all amateurs with no experience in film making. But he understood the cause behind it and encouraged us,” he says.

As the Tamil version of the documentary was made on a tight budget, they had to compromise on the quality of the video. The crew explained it to Dr. Kalam and got his permission to make it again in English as A Little Dream. Actor Shobana was roped in to play the teacher narrating the story to the students.

But the only regret the team has is that Dr. Kalam refused to take part in the launch of the documentary. “He is a man of principles. He said it was not right for him to participate in an event that was all about him. Later, his friend, professor Y.S. Rajan released the documentary at Delhi Tamil Sangam.”

The two-hour documentary was distributed through book stores and post offices throughout the country.


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Printable version | Jul 22, 2021 4:49:50 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/the-house-of-kalam/article7489219.ece

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