A soaring kite
If it’s a Hindi film about youth, it is usually about city-centric aspirations. Eye damage is not ruled out, with candyfloss visuals of fashion-suffused college campuses blasting every frame. In his new film Kai Po Che, Abhishek Kapoor, who made Rock On!! in 2008, moves far away from that formula.
Kapoor turns Chetan Bhagat’s best-seller, The 3 Mistakes of My Life, about three small-town men who have reached adulthood without having quite grown up, into a mature life-cycle drama. The three men have limited means, but they dream big. They are progressive in mind, but are trapped in their situations. Refreshingly, Kapoor convinces us their lives can make drama as engaging as that of well-dressed city animals.
It is a simplistic story, naive even, in trying to tackle some big questions. How does a Hindutva-espousing political party get young recruits, and then turn them into zealots? Can a college graduate be entirely oblivious to the implications of the social perceptions and political forces around him? Can cricket really be the cure to all our differences? The film skims over these questions. But it triumphs over the shallow story with well-executed cinematic detail.
We meet Govind (Raj Kumar Yadav), Ishaan (Sushant Singh Rajput), Omi (Amit Sadh) and Vidya (Amrita Puri) in mofussil Gujarat. It is the late 1990s, going into the early 2000s. The town’s first shopping mall is being constructed. The Gujarat earthquake ravages the town, divisive communal politics brews in the political shakhas, and it all culminates catastrophically in the 2002 Godhra riots. Things beyond their control are altering the lives of Govind, Ishaan and Omi. In Gujarati, “kai po che” is a celebratory phrase used during the kite festival—it means “I have cut (the kite)”.
The film is richer because of its technical finesse. Hitesh Sonik, who has created the background music, is a brilliant new find. Music is used sparsely in the narrative, but the notes linger. Amit Trivedi’s music has variety as well as eclecticism, and like most of what the composer makes, it does not sound like jaded fusion. The cinematography by Anay Goswami is free of cosmetic gloss.
Kapoor extracts good work out of his actors. Rajput is a television actor, and this is his first film. He lends charisma and restraint to the film’s most colourful character. Sadh, although not consistently in character, delivers some powerfully enacted moments. Puri, seen last as a convincingly enacted bumbling outsider among Delhi’s fashion cognoscenti in the romcom Aisha (2010), makes Vidya warm and believable.
Yadav is a staggering new talent in Hindi cinema. He eloquently articulates Govind’s awkwardness, his middle-class obsession to save money and his stiff exterior.
These are not characters you would really know, because the story does not allow you to, but Kapoor’s clever handling of scenes reveals just a little bit more.
A well-crafted mass entertainer about sweeping emotions rarely comes along. Kai Po Che is one of them.
Kai Po Che releases in theatres on Friday.