Young boys from Gujarat visit Diu to drink alcohol, sex is the most important thing that happens after a night at navratri celebration by young people, Ahmedabad was devastated with earthquake and communal harmony disharmony during the times of riot – Abhishek Kapoor does in Kai Po Che what Chetan Bhagat could not in ‘The 3 Mistakes Of My Life’. He conveys all these stereotypes in a subtle way. Not that stereotypes don’t exist in this film, but they are dealt with in a different way. Sample the scene where a young muslim boy is sitting with his cricket coach on Diwali evening doing Rangoli with the theme of cricket or when he is sitting below a couple of paintings of Hindu Goddesses in his kurta pyjama and topi. Kai Po Che is able to shift the focus from unnatural coincidences and twisted turns of the plots to the key characters primarily because of its lead actors, who add a natural charm and depth to their characters.
The film is in essence a drama placed in Gujarat a couple of years after the new millienium. Two difficult years with two great tragedies coinciding for people of Gujarat- an earthquake and riots. Over this canvas, the key aspect of male camaraderie that we have seen Abhishek Kapoor paint so efficiently in Rock On is also very nicely captured in Kai Po Che. The fights and the reconciliation is brought to the fore by cricket and Australia’s tour to India over the same period. People who have read the novel would know that the story has all the standard ingredients that work in India across generation– Cricket, love story, politics, business and mathematics!
Acting by the relatively new and also debutants is the key highlight for the film. Sushant Singh Rajput has a natural charm and energy that he brings to the character of Ishaan. The expressions on his face, especially when people ask him questions for which he has no answers mark his acting finesse. Rajkumar Yadav gets a meaty role that he much needed after him being noticed earlier by Dibakar Banerjee and Anurag Kashyap. He gets to play a true blue entrepreneur who takes his life seriously and he does that marvellously. But the revelation of the film was Amit Sadh. As Omkar Shashtri, he is a follower of his more influencing friend Ishaan and his politician Mama (played effectively by Manav Kaul) and is hence a confused mind throughout the movie but by the end is full of rage. His transition is the most subtle thing in the movie. Amrita Puri plays the girl next door, and does that absolutely efficiently. She has a sparkling presence and brings sensuality with ease.
To give the credit where it is due, there are a few departments apart from direction that have done a fabulous job. Production design by Sonal Sawant brings to life the “Pol” life of Ahmedabad very beautifully to the fore, though the language used in the movie sprinkled with some Gujarati lines here and there, doesn’t really connect as efficiently. Background score by Hitesh Sonik and the music by Amit Trivedi are top-notch. The scene where the camera shows you a mad mob rushing towards a closed door of the chawl or the reconciliation of two friends after India wins the cricket match as Ishaan (Sushant Singh Rajput) runs through the chawl is marked with a great background score. Similarly “Manjha”, “Meethi Boliyaan” and the dandiya version of “Pari Hoon Mein” add a texture to the film beautifully.
So is the film an out an out work of genius execution? Well not quite. The movie suffers from inconsistent pacing partly due to screenplay and partly due to editing (Deepa Bhatia). The feel of “what next” and keeping you at the edge of the seat does not exist throughout. The story doesn’t build up over the earlier sequences to reach to a climax until the later portions. Though shot in a very subtle and natural way there are some unnatural coincidences that cut the organic feel of the film.
All in all, Kai Po Che is a well captured, well-made film from a not-so-great novel. It will have appeal across different sections of viewers. The movie marries precise direction with good acting, fine production design and an effective musical score. If only the pace of the movie and the unbelievable coincidences of the novel were modified slightly better, it would have been a much better film. In spite of some faults, Kai Po Che definitely meets the expectation that was set around it.