Thursday, February 28, 2013

Kai Po Che - Brotherhood Tested

Abhishek Kapoor's 'Kai Po Che' literally is a victory call made during the Gujarat kite flying festival when one has cut the string of an opponent's kite. Its about coming out trumps at the end. But the route to it can be arduous, the victory laced with tears and regrets. In essence this is a movie about friendship, the kind that grows together, becomes inseparable and face the hurdles life shoots out. It is the dawn of the 21st century. Ishaan (Sushant Singh Rajput), Omi (Amit Sadh) and Govind (Raj Kumar Yadav), 'brothers for life' as the movie's tag line claims, inhabit each others space with cohesion. They have been aimless for too long. Now its time to get down to business. Setting up a sports equipment store, financed by Omi's right wing politician uncle (Manav Kaul), they also will double it as a cricket academy to harbor fresh talent off the streets . The cricketer among the friends is Ishaan who lives and breathes the game, owning the title of being the best cricketer in their district. He somehow got lost in the bylanes of this highly competitive and political game. In training Ali (Digvijay Deshmukh), a scrawny little kid who can bat a sixer at will, he reignites that light which gives him a sense of purpose in life.

Govind, the money wise accountant friend keeping a tight rein on the purse strings of the business, sees an opportunity to set shop in an upcoming mall. Rightly judging malls to be the future of Indian economy, he is eager they claim a piece of it. Here again Omi's uncle sponsors the huge deposit and in return Omi feels a pressure to join his uncle's political journey. Celebrating their first earnings, the friends enjoy a quick getaway, make merry, booze, even jumping shirtless into the sea in a fit of joie de vivre. But then dreams get foiled with the shaking of the earth. The quake causes destruction to the mall and the builder disappears with their money. It raises faultlines in the friends equations and cracks look to occur. The earthquake is only a prelude to the man made massacre on the Sabarmati Express train at Godhra, which results in senseless religious rioting claiming hundreds of life. The friends journey through these dire times as their dreams, hope and humanity crash and burn.

'Kai Po Che' keeps the proceedings real and understated. We witness life in a middle class neighborhood of Ahmedabad as it really could be, the characters and surroundings have that lived in feel to them. This is no mega budget Bollywood production where the sets look artificial and their inhabitants caricatures. We sense the easy camaraderie of the friends from the onset and understand that they have probably known and loved each other all their lives. No over the top moments are needed here to establish that bond. We meet them and they casually carry us about in their business of life. The sad history of Gujarat in the early 2000s converge with their lives, for if one is living in a time in history at the place of its occurrence, to not be affected by it to some degree is implausible There is also that little neighborhood romance brewing between Govind and Ishaan's sister Vidya (an impish Amrita Puri), the girl seducing her shy, reticent math tutor that feels all too familiar.

Abhishek Kapoor, who earlier directed 'Rock On', a compromised take on friendship that never quite hit off in my view, gets it pitch perfect this time. He wisely chose new comers to the big screen in his actors, who breath fire into their characters. Amit Sadh and Sushant Singh were both former TV actors while  Raj Kumar Yadav has played small but important characters in earlier films, his last being the police inspector aiding Aamir Khan's character in Talaash. Where we have previously seen sparks in him, here he gets the means to bring something remarkably endearing to his Govind, the boy next door,  geeky with a head for numbers but somewhat socially awkward. Amit Sadh's Omi has a challenged character graph as he shifts from being the hang on to Ishaan's every word, to becoming a political figure at odds with his best friend, on opposite sides of the communal divide that threaten everything at stake. Sushant Singh Rajput is a star in the making with his endearing screen presence and that he has acting chops to match is a blessing. His Ishaan lights up the screen with his antics, his impulsive nature and his golden heart shining bright. Together these actors have created magic and aided by a strong directorial hand, a good script adapted from the Chetan Bhagat book 'The three mistakes of my life', music by a talented Amit Trivedi that sets the mood for the events unfolding, this movie has everything going strongly for it.

The only place where a little change would have helped is in giving the movie an extra couple of minutes to detail the aftereffects of the earthquake and its toll on their friendship and business. These episodes feel a little hurried and probably suffered from overzealous editing. That apart, this is a Bollywood bromance which stays grounded and is at the same time sublimely poetic. A truly good movie to come out of the Hindi film industry, traveling into the heartland of India and delivering a triumphant tale of friendship, loss and redemption.

Released in 2013
In Hindi with English subtitles
My Rating: 4/5


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