The ApunKaChoice movie review of Kai Po Che! A tale of three friends set against the faultlines of the Gujarat earthquake of 2001 and the carnage of post-Godhra communal riots of 2002, Abhishek Kapoor’s Kai Po Che! is a cinematic triumph boasting of skilled direction and competent performances.
Set in Ahmedabad, this celluloid adaptation of Chetan Bhagat’s book 3 Mistakes of My Life tells the story of Ishaan, Govind and Omi (played with aplomb by Sushant Singh Rajput, Raj Kumar Yadav and Amit Sadh respectively), who, though thick as thieves, are yet very different from each other. Ishaan is a passionate, impulsive, hot-headed guy with a dream to set a cricket academy. Govind is a practical, level headed guy with a knack for number crunching and a value for money, but he’s quite socially awkward. Omi is the coolheaded of the lot, but not without the influence of his firebrand politician uncle (Manav Kaul) who bankrolls the trio to set up a cricket equipment shop and an academy.
No friendship is without its fissures, and so is this one as well. As Gujarat quakes and burns, faultlines appear in their friendship, and they are riven and swayed by emotions and raging violence. Passions are inflamed, dreams shattered. Yet hope doesn’t die out.
Kai Po Che! is a touching human drama about the frailty of friendship in testing times. It rightly abstains from making any political statement despite touching upon such a sensitive issue as the Godhra carnage and the riots that followed. In this minefield of potential controversies, the film cleverly and assuredly tip-toes its way without losing itself into preachy sermons or moral hectoring. And that’s the beauty of Abhishek Kapoor’s direction! He mirrors some ugly realities without foisting any judgment upon the viewers.
Apart from this, the film gives one a darn good flavor of Gujarat quite subtly. There’s no ostensible effort to make every dialogue sound like ‘Gujju’ talk. No extra frills or flair tagged onto a beautifully shot Garba dance sequence, no vanity parading of damsels in the traditional chaniyo or choli. In fact, the only notable female presence in the film, Amrita Puri, is a quintessential girl-next-door. She plays the sister of Ishaan taking math tuitions from his friend Govind (Raj Kumar Yadav) on whom she makes her subtle moves.
There’s also a subplot of Ishaan mentoring a batting prodigy Ali (Digvijay Deshmukh), a Muslim boy with a flair to whack the cricket ball like Sehwag does when on song.
The film, however, is not without its faults. The scenes showing communal violence (the saffrons versus the greens) look quite generic and at times lack the gravitas and the horror they ought to generate. Also the way the characters plough their way through the mayhem of the second half is dealt with more convenience than would look credible. Yet these are minor gripes one would happily forget in the face of the moving story that director Abhishek Kapoor essays without any fanfare of a mainstream Bollywood masala fare.
Best of all is the chemistry and camaraderie of the three leading characters. Raj Kumar Yadav is the pick of the lot with his subdued, docile, gauche mannerisms. Sushant Singh Rajput makes a terrific debut in a performance that’s as passionate as nuanced. Amit Sadh is very aptly cast for the role of a loyal friend who can be easily swayed.
With its lilting music (Amit Trivedi), skilled direction, terrific performances and a tale that any youth can easily relate to, Kai Po Che! is a film that definitely ought to be seen once. More than anything, it proves that one needn’t fall back on the tropes of Bollywood mainstream or some crowd-pulling superstar to make a movie that’s every bit worth one’s time and money spent.
Verdict: Kai Po Che! is a cinematic tour de force.