Oh Canada: Amal

OH CANADA: Amal is an endearing story about learning to appreciate life’s simple pleasures.

AMAL (2007)
Starring Rupinder Nagra
Co-Written and Directed by Richie Mehta
Distributed by Seville Pictures
101 minutes

This film will always have a very special place in my heart; Because of Amal, I got my foot in the door in the Toronto Film Festival Industry.

A few years ago I was at an event in Hudson, Quebec when I met the star of this film, the charming Rupinder Nagra. We started chatting about life and Rupinder mentioned he knew some of the people I’d been interviewing with in Toronto.

Later on that year I got my first gig, an internship at the Toronto International Film Festival. I never got the chance to thank Rupinder in person so at least I get to do it here in my column; thanks dude!

Although I obviously think Rupinder is an awesome human being, I wouldn’t have talked about his first starring role in a feature film if I didn’t think he was a good actor. Quite simply, he is.

When you meet the man in person and then see him in this film as the title character Amal, a poor rickshaw driver in New Delhi, you understand what a brilliant transformation he went under.

Amal is a story that sets up the parallel worlds of modern India: on one side you have the busy, chaotic life of the lower classes who struggle to earn a few dollars a day and speak Hindi. Then on the other side you have the extremely affluent, laisez-faire upper class who struggle for nothing and speak English. Lingering in between these worlds is Mr. Jayaram (Naseeruddin Shah) an eccentric old millionaire who’s decided to live out his retirement wandering the streets of New Delhi like a vagrant instead of relaxing in one of the exclusive hotels he helped built.

One day Mr. Jayaram gets into a rickshaw and starts chatting with his driver, Amal. They only speak for a few minutes but Mr. Jayaram is so impressed with this simple hard working man that on his death bed shortly after their conversation, Mr. Jayaram leaves his entire fortune to Amal.

The last minute change in the will is of course not welcome news to Mr. Jayaram’s spoiled family. Mr. Jayaram’s son Vivek (Vik Sahay of Chuck fame) especially was looking to get his hands on daddy’s millions to help pay off his growing gambling debts. Amal and Vivek quickly become set up as polar opposites; while Amal is a poor man who has no luxuries in life he’s perfectly content. Vivek meanwhile has everything but is drowning in a sea of self-destruction, and makes it his personal mission to make sure Amal is never found.

Whether Amal ever actually gets his hands on the money isn’t important. Although we’ve seen the story that money doesn’t buy you happiness a million times before director Richie Mehta has made a great little film with a great script and of course, fabulous actors.

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