Cast: Sushant Singh Rajput, Amit Sadh, Raj Kumar Yadav, Amrita Puri
Set against the backdrop of Ahmedabad, Kai Po Che is a story of friendship between Ishaan (Sushant Singh Rajput), Omi (Amit Sadh) and Govind (Raj Kumar Yadav). However, this isn’t an ordinary story of bonding, but a kaleidoscope view of the dynamics between the trio that tests their relationship when thrown in the pan of fire ignited by the Godhra riots and the 2001Gujarat earthquake.
Govind is a dreamer, wanting to start his own talent hunt agency that spearheads the task of finding the best sportsmen in every school and college. Ishaan is the doer, who believes not in just dreaming, but doing. Coaching a local team of boys in cricket, he hits jackpot when he stumbles upon nine-year old Ali (Digvijay Deshmukh), who seems to have a promising future in the sport.
Omi is the sort to follow than lead. Belonging to the family of a Hindu preist, he later joins hands with his mama to rally their political party into contesting local elections. Even though the characters are drawn in black and whites , there are certain grey areas where all three of them often stray into.
The first half focuses on the camaraderie between the three, with light moments establishing their character traits. However, the second half is where the pace picks up as their town is caught amidst the Hindu-Muslim riots and scarred by the after effects of an earthquake.
These events act as a catalyst, showing us the true colours of Ishaan, Omi and Govind, as they struggle to not only keep their friendship alive, but also come face to face with their inner demons.
Casting director Mukesh Chhabra deserves full marks for putting together such an exemplary cast. Attention to detail has been paid as the art director and costume designers bring the colours of Gujarat alive on the big screen. A special nod to Hitesh Sonik who has done a haunting background score. Anay Goswami’s cinematography lights up every frame with finesse.
Kai Po Che! works because it is an ensemble effort. Sushant Singh Rajput makes an effortless debut as Ishaan. He shows the maturity of someone who understands that less is more. Amit Sadh scores in his big scene during the climax where he breaks down and is torn between choosing to seek revenge and honouring his friendship.
However, the breakthrough performance has to be of Raj Kumar Gupta who plays Govind. A remarkable actor who takes on the skin of whatever character he is given, Gupta makes us forget his earlier work and leads us to believe that he was born to play Govind. Amrita Puri suits the bill and keeps it mellow in the role of his love interest.
Abhishek Kapoor’s vision and execution are in sync, which is the reason the film looks so cohesive and doesn’t jar. However, there are certain plotholes which might leave you baffled. There is a certain hesitation on his part in tackling the sensitive issue of the Godhra riots. There is never any mention of a religious sect, everything is implied, perhaps an attempt to play safe? Also, the first half could have had some drama as it wanders and seems like a prelude to a chorus waiting to happen.
Kai Po Che! works on more levels than it fails, and most of it is because of its brilliant execution. Watch it for the performances.
PS: In case you wondered what Kai Po Che means, it refers to the traditional kite flying festival of Gujarat where the phrase translates to ‘I have cut’ where one opponent strikes down another.