Kai Po Che is sketchy yet engaging. It is abrupt and half-baked but the performances and music alone make the film worth a watch. The rest is taken care of by the close-to-home themes.
It's been a while since I thought a movie needed to be a little longer. Not necessarily because I was having a very good time or was thoroughly engaged, but because I wanted to see more of each of the characters. Every time I was involved with them, I was moved on to the next episode. No emotion was allowed to sink in. Yet, what the story is trying to convey, and the performances make for a certain one-time watch - if not in theaters, at least when it is out on DVD/TV.
It is very likely that my need to know more about the characters springs from having found them interesting in the book, 3 Mistakes of My Life by Chetan Bhagat. The book has a little more about each of them, especially the side characters. On the other hand, they weren't well-fleshed out to start with either. So cutting out from what was already little felt rather sketchy.
It was quite an ordeal finishing the book, but that's mainly because the language is too plain-speak. His words can get tiring with their lack of flow. (It doesn't help that I took it upon myself to read the book again before watching the film.) Yet, I admit, Chetan Bhagat does have interesting stories to tell, even if they are outlandish and superficial, the basic concepts are capable of holding interest.
It's a good thing then that film-making has grammar of its own and Abhishek Kapoor makes the narrative interesting enough to make two hours pass by in almost a blink. With so many themes that are so close to home for most of us, it is easy to hook us in - friendship of course, communal riots and cricket! Only thing missing here is Bollywood. With these themes as broad strokes, the director manages to get quite a bit of detail in his frames.
The camera work is almost always jittery, not letting you settle in, in any one atmosphere, be it the romance between Govind (Raj Kumar Yadav) and Vidya (Amrita Puri) or Ishaan's (Sushant Singh Rajput) struggle with his adamant student Ali (Digvijay Deshmukh) or Omi's unsure personality being moulded into what his uncle (Manav Kaul) stands for. What keeps the film together, with its fluidity, though is the background score. It is lilting, melodious and subtle all at once.
And of course, the performances are the glue too. Ace-rate performances by one and all make Kai Po Che worth the time, effort and money, by themselves. Each of their passions shone through be it business, cricket or politics. Their friendship worked too. Yet, I would now really like to see Raj Kumar Yadav in a role where he needs to speak slower, just so we know he can do it. Sushant Singh Rajput is refreshing and Amit Sadh has a screen presence without speaking much. I found, casting of Manav Kaul as the communal leader, the most surprising - younger and more polished than I'd have imagined the character. But, he fit in just right.
Given the material they had, the tweaks the screenplay writers made, makes Kai Po Che really interesting. But, like with any film that is based on a book you've read, it is very difficult to shake the book off while watching it. There maybe debates (a few of which I heard on my way out of the theater) about what was added/deleted/edited from the book and whether or not that worked for the film. But as it stands by itself, the movie works because of the audience relates with the content. Only it felt like it was incomplete because it didn't delve deeper into each of the themes.
Also, like with the book, the story starts out with friendship and its hardships and abruptly ends up becoming a larger national issue. But then again, isn't that pretty much what life is like? All dynamics change abruptly when a calamity hits you personally.
Ultimately for me, the clincher was seeing a 600-seater full-house in a 'star'-struck nation for a film that doesn't sport any stars. Even the director isn't that big-ticket a name. Which means that people came either for the story they read or the trailers they saw. And I wasn't even surprised. This is a HUGE step.
- meetu, a part of the audience
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