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He is washed ashore and when children discover him, questions arise: Who is he? Is he a militant or a government soldier, they wonder, on finding a knife in his bag? And when they uncover his face, he tells them he wants to go back to sleep.

“What’s your name?” they ask. “I am Nandan,” he mutters.

Nandan is given shelter at the children’s orphanage in a civil war-torn Sri Lanka at the insistence of their caretaker, a mother figure whom they fondly call ‘tsunami akka’ (Saritha).

Playing Nandan, a special child, is Karan, who suffers from Downs Syndrome. Beating stereotypes, Sivan has portrayed Nandan in an endearing way. You will laugh indulgently at Nandan’s antics without ridiculing him and love him for his innocence. He closely guards a bag of treasures that includes a skull, which he calls Mr. Friend. My favourite scene is the one where he lets free a tortoise rescued in the war. Don’t miss the hundred dollar bill sticking to its shell.

Every child in the orphanage has a tragic tale — of families lost in war. While ‘tsunami akka’ tends to their daily needs, it is Stanley (Karunas) who imparts basic education to the children. Stanley hopes that one day, they will all migrate to another land for a better life. And he religiously prepares documents for every child here. ‘Tsunami akka’, however, believes in staying back in their homeland.

Inam takes viewers to war-torn Sri Lanka where following the departure of UN forces, the government stepped up its war against the Tamil Tigers. And, caught in this indiscriminate shelling were innocent civilians.

What gives life to this otherwise morbid tale are little moments of joy — 17-year-old Rajini falling in love with Ravi, her companion, at the orphanage, a clandestine midnight meal the children cook after stealing Stanley’s rooster. There is more to life besides bullets and war smoke, the story says.

Director Santosh Sivan has crafted his characters with great care and their unique traits set each one apart. Matched with a laudable performance by the cast, Inam keeps the audience engaged. Bollywood actor Sugandha Ram is brilliant as Rajini, the 17-year-old, who braves all odds to find refuge in India. Yesteryear actress Saritha returns with a neat performance.

With Sivan’s signature on every frame, Inam is sheer poetry. The poignant visuals surrounding animals — the kittens playing or the chickens scurrying as bombs fly — touch a chord in you.

Inam takes you to the war zone where man and animals struggle for survival.