Gattu, directed by Rajan Khosa, is an optimistic and uplifting tale of an orphaned street kid and the one great passion that keeps his spirit alive even in the bleakest of times.

Set in a small town in North India, the film is centered on nine-year-old Gattu (Mohammad Samad), who works at his uncle’s scrap yard doing odd jobs like rummaging through garbage and recycling used containers. As often as he can, Gattu will come up with elaborate excuses to skip work so he can do what he enjoys most…flying kites. It is here, as he controls the movements of his kite with the string in his fingers, while his eyes stay riveted to the sky, that Gattu comes into his own and escapes temporarily from the reality of his life.

More gifted than all his urchin friends whose kites he cuts in the sky, Gattu nevertheless becomes obsessed with beating the one black kite, Kali, who no one has conquered yet. On realizing that his only hope to beat Kali is to fly his kite from the highest point in town, Gattu steals a uniform from a clothesline, and posing as a student, sneaks into the neighborhood school whose rooftop terrace he must access.

Shining a light on such pressing issues as child labor, poverty, and illiteracy, but shrouding them under the cloak of a feel-good story about hope and friendship, director Rajan Khosa delivers a film that’s likely to appeal to both adults and younger audiences. In Mohammad Samad who plays Gattu, Khosa has discovered a pint-sized powerhouse of talent with unmistakable charisma. Endearing and cocky in equal measure, Samad grabs your attention when he’s on screen.

Produced by the Children’s Film Society of India, Gattu won a special mention at the Berlin International Film Festival in February this year. It’s the kind of charming film that’ll feature on critics’ year-end lists of movies you should have watched but probably didn’t. Do yourself a favor – don’t miss it.

I’m going with three out of five for Gattu.

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