"Amal: Sometimes the Poorest of Men are the Richest" – Heartland Film Festival Movie Review

The following review and experience was written by a friend of mine that was able to take advantage of the ability to go see the movie when I had the ticket available and couldn’t attend myself.

I was eager to have Lacie attend the event and see the movie as she wasn’t familiar with the Heartland Film Festival prior to me contacting her. Hopefully good exposure for an event to an even wider audience.

I had the opportunity to attend the showing of Amal at the Heartland Film Fest. At first, I will admit I was slightly worried – the movie started, and it was in another language and there were no subtitles. I was hopeful that they would either appear out of nowhere or that it would switch to English soon. About 10 minutes in the movie stopped and one of the Heartland people came out and apologized for the inconvenience but that they were shipped the wrong reel – one without subtitles. Not to worry, they had a spare that had subtitles so it would just take a few minutes to swap out the reels. So we waited, and about 10 minutes later the reels were swapped out and we resumed the movie. Much better – now I actually understood everything that was going on.

The movie itself was an endearing movie about someone who has a good heart and keeps getting a disheartening hand in the game of life. It starts out with Amal driving around New Delhi with a beautiful woman in a rickshaw and some little girl steals her purse. Amal chases the girl who runs into traffic and has to be taken to the hospital. Amal works extra hours to pay the girl’s hospital bills and see to it that she is taken care of in the hospital. On top of that, he visits her regularly to keep her company and they strike up an unlikely relationship. During one of his workdays he ends up picking up an older man who looks disheveled and possibly homeless. During the drive in the rickshaw the two strike up a conversation and the older man learns about Amal’s father and the true heart of the man who was driving him. At the end of the trip, the discussion turns to the cost for the ride and Amal tells him that it is what the meter says, the old man refuses to pay the meter amount and Amal accepts the lesser payment graciously. From this the old man, who turns out to be a millionaire, decides he wants to leave his fortune to Amal. So his lawyer is now on the search for Amal and we find out that the old man’s son is in a huge amount of debt and is expecting the inheritance from his father. So he and his uncle craft a plan to purposely not find Amal so that the son can get the money. The uncle ends up finding Amal and wants to help him get the money, since he has now figured out what the old man saw in Amal’s heart.

As the movie continues we learn that the girl in the hospital needs to have surgery that is expensive and Amal is trying to find a way to cover the expenses. At this point in the story, as the viewer I thought, so good – he’ll get the inheritance money in time and everything will work out well. Not quite – Amal had to sell his rickshaw, his way of earning money, to the loan shark in town to get enough money for the girl’s surgery. Up until Amal sold his rickshaw each day he would drive the beautiful woman at the same time each day, and once he sold his rickshaw one of the other drivers had to pick up her account. She was unhappy about the change, and went to see Amal at his house. Instead of Amal she meets his mother who tells her the whole story, how he sold his rickshaw and now works at the post office. She decides to go home and takes her dowry money to buy a carburetor for the broken down rickshaw outside so that Amal can earn his living the way he wants to again. Amal is beyond touched by this situation and gladly takes up his past career. The son of the millionaire discovers that his uncle is going to help Amal get the money and so he kills his uncle because of this. The very next day, the lawyer is still able to find Amal after a series of interesting events, and gets him her office just in time. She hands him the letter that the millionaire wrote him and he appears to read it while the police make a call in to the lawyer’s office. As the lawyer is distracted with the call, Amal decides he must leave so that he can pick up the beautiful woman on time like he has promised. As he gets in his rickshaw a homeless girl outside asks for paper to draw on – so he hands her the letter. As it turns out in the end – Amal can’t read, and he drives away from the lawyer’s smiling knowing that he has a rickshaw to drive and that business will continue as normal.

At this point I sat in the seat at the theater and had very conflicted feelings. Part of my own prejudices I have discovered revolve around money – that money makes someone happy, that money can make the difference in someone’s life. I was frustrated because I felt like Amal got shafted, that he didn’t get his due. But the other part of me was relieved that there are people who don’t need money to be happy. Granted, if he had actually understood that there was millions of dollars he could have had, maybe he wouldn’t have turned it down – I don’t know anyone who would have – but I was happy with the ending because Amal didn’t have to make that decision, but was still content with his life as it was – not needing anything more to fulfill him day to day.

After the movie the writer & director did a question and answer period where we found out that his brother and he wrote the story together and its had multiple lives – first as a story, then as a short film, and finally as what I saw in the theater. The taping all happened in New Dehli and the writer is from India and so this was an important part of him connecting to his history.

All in all, this was a well written, well done movie that I was glad I took the time to go see. It supported my sense of goodness in humanity and I left feeling happy about how things finally ended.

Did you catch a showing this weekend as part of the opening premieres of the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis? If so, let us know what you thought of your film and the experience overall.