Cast: Sushant Singh Rajput, Amit Sadh, Raj Kumar Yadav
Director: Abhishek Kapoor
Rating: Three stars
Three’s not just company. Whenever male friends hang out ‘threegether’ in the movies, you can bet there’s danger ahead. Like the trio with brio evidenced in 'Dil Chahta Hai,' '3 Idiots' and 'Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara,' they come apart at the seams. Friendship, alas, means having to say you’re sorry.
Indeed, actor-turned-director Abhishek Kapoor had dealt with a friends-turned-foes quartet in the excellent 'Rock On!' Now he’s back to the traditional square three with 'Kai Po Che,' which does have its passages of superior cinema – particularly in the shot takings, ethnic chic costumes, sets and locations – but in its entirety, strikes you as shallow and schematic.
The subject of male bonding affected by the scourge of communal politics, demands maturity, unbridled humanism and incisive observations. None of that’s visible here. Presumably, there was a whole lot of footage omitted in the editing room, which makes the result rushed, devoid of a strong sub-text. And if there’s an emotional quotient, it appears to be strictly remote-controlled.
Adapted from Chetan Bhagat’s 'The Three Mistakes of My Life,' the screenplay resorts to short-cuts from the outset. The three buddies are all jobless and quite thoughtless. How come? Their education qualifications and reasons for unemployment remain a mystery.
Anyway, so Govind (Raj Kumar Yadav), the most industrious of the lot, hits on the testy dad of his chum Ishaan (Sushant Singh Rajpur) for a loan. Rejected. But, thank the lord for uncles! The third pal Omi (Amit Sadh) possesses a maternal uncle – a mamaji who’s a politician with three capital PPPs. Fortuitously, Mamaji hands out cash as if it grew on potted plants.
The three lads now run a quaint sport shop, besides coaching kids in cricket. Star pupil (uh oh) happens to Ali, a Muslim – and when that happens in Gujarat, you know what to expect. Politician Mamaji will not like this, going to the extent of looking as upset as if he’d swallowed a caterpillar, lizard, or both.
The predictable transpires: stormy elections, the 2001 earthquake devastation and the Godhra riots. Consequently, on one side, you have Ishaan and Govind, emblems of secularism who support cricket boy Ali’s family. Opposing them are their estranged buddy Omi and his mean Shakuni-like Mamaji. Time for fight-to-the-finish with guns, swords and also, intrusive sms messages.
Throughout, the approach is disconcerting -- part-authentic, part-fabricated. A story about communal tension surely warranted a tougher and clearer exposition -- with a stand on the issue, instead of leaving it half-baked. Moreover, a romantic side track also hauls the viewer away from the topic at hand, as it did in 'Special 26.'
The romance, garba interlude and fluttery looks between Ishaan’s puckish sister and Govind, doesn’t ring true at all. Indeed, it goes against the morally upright characterisation of Govind, who makes apologetic faces throughout, eventually succumbing to a titter-worthy ‘sarkailo khatiya’ scene. In fact, when the girl (Amrita Puri) announces her fears of pregnancy, the unintended funny moment set a ripple of laughter throughout the auditorium.
Something, obviously, went wrong somewhere in Abhishek Kapoor’s buddy-flick. Perhaps he sought to tell too much in too little time. Like the segment showing the absolute apathy of a school principal towards sports education, which ends quixotically with a sudden go-ahead. Principals, it would seem, are capable of bipolar decisions. Moreover, the time-jump by a decade or more after the finale is far too pat and convenient, to end on a sugary note. Riots, alas, do leave an uncomfortable aftertaste, which was probably considered poison for the film’s ticket sales. The manner in which the story has been structured into a screenplay, makes the wrap-up seem like a flight into fantasty. If only all izz well was true all the time.
On the upside, 'Kai Po Che' – the kites warring in the clear blue sky are a symbolic allusions at some level – does tread off the beaten bath. It is largely shot in real homes and the real homes of Gujarat. The cinematography is seductively pleasant, and Amit Trivedi’s music score is easy on the ears. Baylon Fonseca’s sound design is inventively detailed and keeps the volume in check.
Of the cast, theatre actor Manav Kaul is almost unrecognisable as the Mean Mamaji. Handicapped by a sketchily written role, his villainy isn’t menacing enough though. Amit Sadh is impressively restrained. Sushant Singh Rajput, in the most flamboyant part of the three, makes an impressive debut, coming off as an actor who can be implosive if the director handles him that way. Of the three buddies, Raj Kumar Yadav rocks big-time. Here’s an actor who strives for excellence, and achieves it.
Thanks to the three fast-rising actors, technical finesse and some engagingly directed vignettes, 'Kai Po Che' is a cut above the commonplace. It’s good but with a touch of depth, it could have been wow.