Indian teacher Anand Kumar was in Maple Ridge, B.C., on Friday to see his story told on the big screen during a special filming of Super 30.
Maple Ridge author Dr. Bijou Matthew met Kumar in Maple Ridge in 2011, at a gala for the South Asian Cultural Society. Eight years ago, he told the crowd in Maple Ridge his inspirational story of helping 30 students every year to lift themselves from grinding poverty through education, and got a huge ovation.
“He gave a fabulous talk, for about 25 minutes, and received standing applause for about 10 minutes,” remembered Matthew. “That was the start of this long journey.”
Later, at the doctor’s home, the two men agreed to tell his story in a book.
It tells the story of how the mathematics prodigy defied all challenges to set up one of the most successful and innovative teaching initiatives in the world. Born in Chandipur Bela, Patna, Kumar secured a place in Cambridge University but couldn’t attend because he had no money.
He sold papads in the evenings instead. He dealt with his own disappointment by setting up an innovative school in 2002 to prepare underprivileged students for the rigorous Indian Institutes of Technology entry examination. Each year, 27 or 28 of his students pass.
Kumar explained the IIT is comparable to MIT in the U.S., and graduates move on to high placements in Western companies.
“Ten or 15 years ago they had nothing, not even proper food or clothes,” he explained on Friday night.
After many visit’s to India and three and a half years of writing Matthew’s book “Super 30: Changing the World 30 students at a time,” was a success. It was written in English, and has since been translated into six languages.
“It became a blockbuster in India,” Matthew said.
The book has since become the basis for the hit movie which was released in July, and is one of the highest-grossing Hindi-language films of the year. It has played in 71 countries.
Kumar is played by Hrithik Roshan, who is one of the biggest stars in India and the winner of many awards. He is also considered a heart throb, comparable to Brad Pitt, and Kumar joked the actor had to lose some muscle to play the mathematician.
“The film is done very well, and the main actor, Roshan, has done a fabulous job,” said Matthew.
Kumar said the movie is inspirational in his country.
“I received a lot of reaction after the release of the movie. Everyone now wants to become a teacher after watching the movie.”
He has also heard the book is to be translated into more languages, from Korean to French.
“I hope that in future the book will be a hit in the entire world.”
Kumar said the fame will bring more success to the school, which he runs with his brother Pranav, who oversees many of the practical jobs of running it.
“Now the school has become famous. We are planning to expand my school. It will happen due to only the book written by Bijou Matthew.”
Matthew corrected Kumar, saying “He has done a lot of work. He is very humble.”
MLA Lisa Beare spoke, noting that as Minister of Tourism Arts and Culture, film and television is part of her portfolio, and Dr. Matthew spoke to her about his project.
“I have this idea, and it’s going to be bigger than Slumdog Millionaire,” she quoted him.
Beare brought message from Premier John Horgan to Friday’s reception.
“Films like this spark inspiration in the hearts of viewers everywhere,” wrote Horgan. “The story of a teacher who champions the potential of talented students to overcome hardship and succeed is one that resonates with people throughout our province and indeed, around the world.”
Ahmed Yousef, board member of the South Asian Cultural Society, said the story touches his heart.
“What is more important to help than our future, than our students?” he asked. “Regardless of how much Bollywood magic you’re going to see in there, it will not do the real story justice.”
Paul Gill of the Ridge Meadows South Asian Cultural Society, said he hopes people see how everyone can make a difference.
“My hope, my prayer, is that you leave this evening inspired, with a particular focus on what is it that you can do, to help those around you who are less fortunate.”