It’s 4 PM on a Saturday afternoon — the sun is burning down on the common plot — and you can see the shutters of ‘Pyaas Point’ clatter down through the swirling dust at ‘Haathibhai ni pod’.
As the baniya (or, in Gujarat – the vaaniya) walks home, keys dangling on a heavy key-chain, looking forward to a short nap after a glass of chhaas — children of all ages, sizes and backgrounds scurry towards the plot with bats, balls and lakhotis (marbles, or gottiya).
Today’s game is against Limda pod. The winner gets a new tennis ball, and Rs.100.
As evening beckons, dinner is at Mama’s house, followed by the adults playing a round of carom and cards on the largest porch of the society. Uttarayan (or Makar Sankrant as some call it) is just a week away. The kids are tying their kites, bickering among themselves whose manja is the sharpest.
The night is endless, the doors remain unlocked — a carefree Sunday morning waiting on the other side of the dark.
This is Gujarat — and it has more or less been beautifully depicted in Abhishek Kapoor’s Kai Po Che.
The film, derived from Chetan Bhagat’s ‘The 3 mistakes of my life‘, captures the essence of Gujarat: cricket, the galli-wars, kites, the importance of the Mama in the family, the love for the dukaan and the constant thrive to escape the pod. All in a crisp 125 minutes.
Subtly, but surely, the film transports the Gujarati to his own life — and for those who don’t know how it’s like — it gives them a glimpse into what it’s like.
In an era of films where either the original (like Gangs of Wasseypur) or the completely insane drama (like Dabangg) work, Kai Po Che brings you a mix of both — real life situations coupled with sensitive nuances about the region it is based in.
The love for cricket — is captured in Ishaan’s character — semi-failure in cricket after the frustrations of selection politics. The district-level player who won trophies at a young age, could never make it big and could never come out of the disappointment — choosing to be the house-bully who keeps losing his cool.
But he exudes the confidence of someone who knows that he’s good at what he does — encrypted in a politicians speech: Loko Gujarati ne paand-da bolaave chhe. Hu kau chhu aavi jao maidaan ma!! (people say Gujaratis are like shaking leaves. I say, bring it on the field).
The Mamaji — the most loved character of every family. So, what are you doing during vacations? Mamana ghare jau chhu (going to Mama’s house). Where are you flying kites this year? Mama na ghare. From where will you get the money for the shop? From Mama.
All this is cool, but of immense frustration to those who don’t have generous Mamas.
The dukaan — the lifeblood of Gujarat. The dukaan is the identity of the state. A Gujju businessman will give his all for his shop. He will put his house, his fixed deposits and his izzat on the line for a shop. Govind, Ishaan and Omi are like that. They symbolise the joy of acquiring a shop, the utter devastation of it’s loss and the constant planning that the states businesses are doing to keep up with all the malls springing up in every corner.
Paatras, patangs et al — ‘Lo, paatra khao… mainey banaaye hai’ goes Vidya, who is the perfect example of the Gujarati girl — boldness hidden behind a curtain of forced courtesy and a beauty spot in the perfect place. The kite-flying festival scene, which barely lasts for a couple of minutes, still tells you the hidden story: Ali Hashmi ne teri patang kaat di, Omkar Shastri!
And despite the state being dry, Sunday is welcomed by Ishaan with the lines: Sunday hai, daru peene ka day hai!
But where the movie wins is the fact that it mingles these rosy things about Gujarat with the horrific earthquakes and communal riots. In a twisting tale about friendship, loss and success, Kai Po Che has a little bit of us in every character.
And most of all, it captures the essence of Gujarat like no other film has.