<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Abhishek Kapoor. Starring Sushant Singh Rajput, Amit Sadh, Raj Kumar Yadav, Amrita Puri, Manav Kaul, Bakul Sayal
This much-ballyhooed film (partly thanks to UTV’s promotional blitzkrieg) that has all of twitter abuzz really raised my expectations, which is perhaps also why it didn’t quite wow me to cheer for it.
Billed as a film about friendships and male bonding – which they try very hard to portray with numerous montages of the three leads prancing around shirtless – Kai Po Che! is actually a film that has more than one direction. At first, it’s a film about jobless friends, Ishaan (Sushant Singh Rajput), Omi (Amit Sadh) and Govind (Raj Kumar Yadav), who want to start a sports shop outside their village mandir, which they ultimately do. They love cricket and so they train the local boys and fascinate them with tips and tricks, which also helps boost their sales of sports merchandise. Then they want to buy another shop in a ‘way of the future’ mall but tragedy strikes.
That’s pretty much the first half. I was pretty bored by it but don’t take that as a barometer of how the film was. I’m just not that interested in cricket. Which is what I thought this film was about. And the first half gives you no reason to think otherwise apart for some side plot about village politics and the ruling party head, Omi’s uncle Bittu Mama (Manav Kaul).
The second half of the film – and you know I’m beginning to hate that Bollywood splits their films this way – turns into a comment on race relations and religious politics. The Hindu Gujaratis and the Muslim ones in the town are seen at odds with each other especially in the context of the period (events leading up to the Godhra riots). So now the three friends Ishaan, who has been mentoring a Muslim cricketing prodigy called Ali (Digvijay Deshmukh), Omi who is personally affected and decides to join his radical uncle in their religious ‘cleansing’ and the relatively down to earth Govind who is having a relationship with Ishaan’s sister Vidya (Amrita Puri) find themselves being torn apart.
What you quickly come to realise about Kai Po Che! is that it’s not so much a path breaking or particularly great film. It’s the perfect example of what a good director, some good cinematography and music and relatively fine performances can do: turn an okay script (based on Chetan Bhagat’s The 3 Mistakes of my Life) into a nice movie.
Though the three actors are all good with well-defined characters, their camaraderie never really shines through so at moments when you’re supposed to feel for them feeling for each other, you don’t really care that much. Sushant Singh Rajput as the beefy, angry man with a sensitive side is a strong performance. And even though Amrita Puri doesn’t have a huge role, she plays the cute, opinionated and independent girl with a reasonable amount of flair. We definitely need to see more of her.
Another performance that I found solid was Manav Kaul’s as the political honcho and Bittu Mama. From a leader with a soft corner for his nephew Omi to a butcher out to get revenge on a community, he has shown wonderful range in a subtle way that doesn’t go over-the-top. There are a couple of things that are left hanging in the film like Ali’s mysterious fainting spell and what happens to the sports academy they set up. Also, I’m not too sure about the very broken Gujarati spoken at the end of Hindi sentences. I guess Punjabi is easier to speak in Bollywood!
As for director Abhishek Kapoor, well take a bow man; you’ve made a very good looking film, something different for sure and put up a great show considering you were working within the framework of the source material (the book).