Monday, February 25, 2013

'Kai Po Che' is beautiful

There may be spoilers ahead.

'Kai Po Che' is not about kite flying, as one might infer from the title. Neither is it another male-bonding movie along the lines of 'Dil Chahta Hai' and 'Rock On' though one might get that feeling watching the first 15 minutes of it. What it is, is a marvelously made coming-of-age tale of three friends living in Ahmedabad in the early 2000s.

There's Ishaan, a brilliant aspiring cricketer who did not end up as one of the fortunate few who get to play for the country. He's emotional, all heart, but also hot-tempered with a tendency to get violent. There's Govind, the one with the entrepreneurial spirit. He is cautious with money but has tremendous foresight and is able to spot economic trends before they have emerged (it's early 2000s in India, the time when malls were just about getting a foothold in the retail landscape of the country, and he's able to see how they're going to revolutionize the way Indians shop over the course of the next few years). And there's Omi, the one who believes in being loyal in friendship. He's more the fence-sitter in the spectrum of Ishaan and Govind, balancing the need to be prudent and disciplined about finances, with generosity.

Together, the three open a sports shop with cricket coaching facilities. Omi acts as the financier of the shop, borrowing money from his uncle who is a politician in a fundamentalist Hindu party. Govind manages the accounts and identifies expansion opportunities, whereas Ishaan serves as the talent, the coach. He finds his life's goal in coaching a little boy - Ali - who has a prodigious talent with the bat.

Just as things are looking up for the three friends, Gujarat is rocked by a series of devastating natural and political events - the earthquake of January 2001, the Godhra massacre of 2002 and the subsequent communal riots - that threaten not only to destroy their business but also shred the fibre of their friendship.

Weighed down by a loan he can't repay Omi is compelled to play an active role in his uncle's Hindu party, whilst Ishaan gets sucked deep into the life and trials of Ali and his community. The story climaxes around the time of the riots following the Godhra carnage when Omi and Ishaan find themselves on the opposite sides of the communal divide. By this time, the viewer knows that no good can come out of this situation.

There are a number of things to like about this movie, the story for one. I have not read '3 Mistakes of My Life' but I believe the movie is not an adaptation of the book per se. They have taken the idea from the book and developed it much further. And what an inspiring, moving tale they have developed it into!

There are three protagonists in this movie, and all the three characters are equally developed (which is quite rare in itself in Bollywood). The performances too are superlative. The three actors Sushant Singh Rajput, Raj Kumar Yadav and Amit Sadh give very lived-in performances as if they are, and always have been, Ishaan, Govind and Omi. They talk like us, sometimes so fast you have to strain a bit to follow them (aren't we all guilty of talking too fast at times? I know I am :) There is no exaggeration of emotions even when calamity strikes. They break down, they shed silent tears, they shout at each other when situations get out of hand, but it's never over the top. Sushant Singh Rajput comes across like he has a lot of restless energy but he reins it in so well, even though he is the most hot-headed of the lot. There are times when you're about to bury your head in your hands thinking he's about to pull a Hritik Roshan on you (while you fervently pray he doesn't because he is such a bundle of talent), but he surprises you with his acting chops. Raj Kumar Yadav's Govind is awkward around women but he infuses such charm into the role, you cheer for him when he turns out to be the only one of the three to get a girl (Amrita Puri playing Ishaan's fiesty, go-getter little sister Vidya is that girl. She's at the periphery of all the action between the trio but she is cute and endearing.) Amit Sadh too does a stellar job of playing the slightly confused and vulnerable Omi who is pushed towards Hindu radicalism more out of economic necessity rather than ideology or inclination.

With a running time of just about two hours, the movie is tightly edited. The narrative is engaging and never gives your mind a chance to wander (unlike 'Special 26' that I felt could have been so much more of a movie but was let down by the unnecessary romantic track and songs). The climax is unpredictable and not something you could have foreseen (you're sitting there going "shit, shit, no, no, no! because you know something awful is about to happen but you don't know what exactly).

More than anything I think I was just awed  by the way Abhishek Kapoor has interwoven history with the movie's story line, and the maturity and restraint with which he has handled the scenes of the earthquake and the communal riots. They are not gut-wrenching as one saw in 'Bombay' or 'Parzania', yet they give you a very realistic feel of what would have happened and what the victims would have gone through.

'Kai Po Che' gives lessons in love and forgiveness. It shows us how no good can ever come out of hatred. It is a story of soaring human spirits and redemption. It will be tough to find a pair of eyes that are not moist after having watched the last half hour of the movie. The last couple of movies that touched my heart in the same way were Nagesh Kukunoor's 'Iqbal' and 'The Kite Runner', I think, and those were AGES ago! This one too will definitely stay with me for a long long time.


Moonshine said...

I dont know when I will get to watch it!! I have been told by many its THE movie to watch! I will wait for it to show on Tv I guess!!

mêlée said...

with bollywood taking a turn towards such movies, we surely are going to have a good time :)