Saturday, February 23, 2013

Kai Po Che 

Making The Cut`

The cry of Kai Po Che, familiar to kite flyers, makes an attractive title for Abhishek Kapoor’s new film, set in Gujarat and based on Chetan Bhagat’s 2008 novel, The Three Mistakes of My Life.

In capturing the ambitions and emotions of three friends, against the tumult of changing India and the two catastrophes that Gujarat suffered – the earthquake and the communal riots—Kapoor aims for an epic sweep and does not quite accomplish  that. The film never makes the heart soar with shared joy or crash with despair, but what Kapoor does manage is to make the audience care for the friendship of three ordinary men, who are not special in any way.  He could not resist some six-pack flaunting by actors—and Sushant Singh Rajput as Ishaan is looking at this film as his launch into Bollywood—but Govind (Raj Kumar Yadav) and Omi (Amit Sadh) are endearing because they are ordinary.

 Kapoor starts the film with their modest dream of setting up a sports good store and cricket academy—a bit of back story would have helped to understand the characters and their motivations better. It would also have helped to explain Ishaan’s crazy devotion to a bright Muslim boy, Ali (Digvijay Deshmukh), who is a natural cricketing talent, though he prefers playing marbles.

Omi’s uncle Bittoo Joshi (Manav Kaul) is a politician with a right wing Hindu party, but also helpful with funds to enable the boys to set up their business.  The first half of the film goes to establish the friendship and their three young mens’ character traits—Govind is serious and ambitious, Ishaan is flamboyant and impulsive, Omi is shy and emotional.

The upheavals start with the earthquake and the shattering of Govind’s dream to have a swanky shop in an upmarket mall. When they have started recovering from the loss the Godhra episode and the riots happen, and their lives are turned upside down again. Despite the scope the period offers—and it was a time of rapid changes—Kapoor keeps his own ambitions modest, not even trying to make the story of the three a representation of how events can alter the collective consciousness of a state or a nation.

The production design, costumes, cinematography, editing, music come together to create a picture of the real India that mainstream cinema usually glosses over, but the plot remains insubstantial, focussing all its energies on Ishaan’s obsession with Ali. The romance between Govind and Ishaan’s sister Vidya (Amrita Puri) is also weakly portrayed.

Rajput might go on to become a ‘hero’ in Bollywood films, and Sadh does well in his limited role, but it is Yadav who proves once again that he can become any character the film demands of him. Manav Kaul and Asif Basra (as Ali’s father) lend able support. Kai Po Che is a good film, but there is a great deal of untapped potential here, still the film feels longer than its running time of a little over two hours.

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