Don’t walk to the theatre to see the new Hindi film “Kai Po Che” – run! Without a doubt, the best South Asian film of the year, and possibly one of the best films in the world this year, has been released and it should not be missed.
A ‘small’ film that, according to reports, major ‘Bollywood’ stars wanted nothing to do with, this Abhishek Kapoor-directed masterwork is a study in storytelling that is, unfortunately, all too rare.
“Kai Po Che”, originally a Gujurati phrase meaning “I have cut the kite” with regards to competitive kite fighting, tells the story of three friends who have “known each other since they were sperm”, as a sister relates. Set in Ahmedabad in the years just before and during the earthquake and riots of the new millenium, unsure what to do with their lives but knowing it must involve their beloved cricket, the film follows their efforts to make something of themselves.
As their lives play out, with a reality, honesty and truthfulness that is so often missing in films these days, this story soars with passion, joy and heartbreak that is simply stunning.
With the three young leads, the Hindi film industry has found three new stars – Sushant Singh Rajput, Amit Sadh and Raj Kumar Yadav. Rajput is “Ishaan”, the cricketer, the dreamer, the emotional anchor; Sadh is “Omi”, the deep thinker, the loyal nephew to his politician uncle, the realist; and Yadav is “Govind”, the repressed romantic, the practical businessman, the pragmatist.
Based on Chetan Bhagat’s novel “The 3 Mistakes of My Life”, and adapted for the screen by Bhagat, Pubali Chaudhari, Supratik Sen and Kapoor, “Kai Po Che’s” characters stay true and real throughout, and as the narrative continues to grow and deepen, never once is there a false note.
Walking the fine political line (Ishaan and Govind are Hindu, Omi is Muslim), “Kai Po Che” manages to show both sides of the Gujurati riots in a fair and just light – there are no bad guys here, just people misunderstanding each other with tragic consequences. It is a fine balancing act that Kapoor gets just right.
Amit Trivedi’s music, wisely and sparsely used, enhances rather than slows down the narrative – there are no splashy dance numbers here. Anay Goswamy’s cinematography is lush and innovative and never boring. Shot entirely in India, a refreshing change, amongst the ‘middle class’, this is a film that everyone can understand – this is not NRI’s in London or Dubai; these are the ‘common people’ living everyday lives, caught up in situations beyond their control.
Amrita Puri, as “Ishaan’s” sister and “Govind’s” love interest, is sweet and sincere and totally believable. Digvijay Deshmukh is a wonderful junior artiste – his “Ali”, a young Muslim cricket phenom who would rather play marbles, is a complex character, an innocent who accidentally becomes the linchpin to the larger story of the film.
Ronnie Screwvala and Siddarth Roy Kapur, without a doubt the most savvy producers in the Hindi film industry today, have backed a winner in this one.
Director Abhishek Kapoor waited five years to gift us with another film after his beautifully rendered “Rock On!” in 2008. If he takes five years to give us another film like this one, I can wait. He is not just a film-maker, he is a craftsman.
I jotted down only two things in my notebook while watching “Kai Po Che”. The first was “WOW!” The second – “A film that halfway through – your are in love and don’t want it to end.” Even now, almost 24 hours later, I still feel that way.