Kai Po Che, set in 2000, is a story about the three musketeers of Gujarat - Ishaan Bhatt (Sushant Singh Rajput), Omi Shastri (Amit Sadh) and Govind (Raj Kumar) – inseparable childhood friends, who like Alexander Dumas’ characters, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis live by the “All for one, one for all” motto of the literary classic. Only Kai Po Che’s director, Abhishek Kapoor, describes their camaraderie as “Brothers for life”.
Ishaan is the quitter who didn’t make it to the national cricket team, becomes a wastrel, and gets admonished by his father in public. Omi is the pujari’s son, always on the right path and Govind does not only dream big, but works towards making it happen by tutoring kids and doing odd jobs to make an extra buck. They form a Sabarmati Sports Club, with the aid of Omi’s politico uncle, who gives them the land and shop for the same.
Govind looks at selling sporting goods and Ishaan trains young kids for big league cricket. Ishaan discovers a young talent, Ali, who knocks off sixes on the pitch like he was born to do so. He takes him under his wing and trains him with great fervour and passion. This part of the film explores the club’s training activities with great insight for the uninitiated into the world of cricket and its mid-offs and cover drives, along with the frailties of human nature and the complexities of everyday living, dreams and desires notwithstanding.
It is refreshing to see the friendship of three young men on celluloid, without a woman stepping into the equation to cause an imbalance in the predictable film format. It is also devoid of dramatic dialogue, which makes them sound closer to real life conversations. But they have their own song and dance routines, with their lean frames jigging to the tracks, celebrating their new shop, life or an India cricket win. The boys were the ‘item numbers” here, no special item girls needed! The film is not entirely devoid of women - there is a girl, Vidya (Amrita Puri), Ishaan’s younger sister, who is tutored in Mathematics by Govind, and they have their own little love story playing out in the midst of it all.
The cinematography by Anay Goswamy caresses every corner and crevice of the location, as it does the expressions and angst of the actors, and the contours of their lithe frames. The sound design by Baylon Fonseca is fantastic and adds the requisite depth to the drama.
The story then envelops its main protagonists into the dark recesses of emotional despair where an invincible force of nature turns their simple existence and complex dreams into a pile of debris and dead bodies on 26 January, 2001. Insurmountable troubles abound, with the political climate taking a communal turn, resulting in riots and even more gore and death.
How Ishaan, Omi and Govind’s friendship survives these troubled times is what the story explores from here on. The human spirit triumphs above all in the story, in a manner most endearing and constitutes the last quarter of the film. I loved that bit the most. It reiterates something I strongly believe in – that being a good human being is the toughest religion of all.
Raj Kumar’s performance as the business minded, diligent Govind is the best in the film and my favourite. Well played! Amrita Puri as Vidya is adorable in her portrayal as a love struck student. From television to the big screen, both Amit Sadh and Sushant Singh Rajput, have made a fabulous transition with great performances. Through the duration of the film, you feel you are watching but a film, and are not as drawn into the lives of these characters in the story as the maker might have intended you to be.
Kai Po Che, a screen adaptation of the book, The 3 Mistakes of My Life, written by Chetan Bhagat, is a good film, but not a great film.