Critics' review: Kai Po Che deserves a standing ovation

By Hindustan Times

Film: Kai Po Che!
Cast: Sushant Singh Rajput, Amit Sadh, Raj Kumar Yadav, Amrita Puri
Director: Abhishek Kapoor
Producer: Ronnie Screwvala, Siddharth Roy Kapur
Screenplay: Pubali Chaudhari, Supratik Sen, Abhishek Kapoor, Chetan Bhagat
Music: Amit Trivedi

Plot: Based on Chetan Bhagat's novel The 3 Mistakes of My Life, the movie is about three best friends Ishaan (Sushant Singh Rajput), Omi (Amit Sadh) and Govind (Rajkumar Yadav) – young, ambitious and restless – are trying to make a mark.

Kai Po Che is a triumphant yell in Gujarati uttered when flying kites are cut. The movie is set in exciting times of 2000s– a new millennium has just dawned. In a country where cricket is religion, they hit upon a brilliant plan – to start a training academy that could produce India's next sporting superstars! What follows is the greatest adventure of their lives, as they attempt to navigate the big hurdles in the path of fulfilling their dreams.

Taran Adarsh, Bollywood Hungama
Kai Po Che cannot be slotted in any particular genre, in my opinion. It depicts unconditional friendship, it portrays 'bromance' as well as romance, it illustrates politics, it exemplifies the passion for a sport (cricket), it talks of the events that unfolded in Gujarat (earthquake, Godhra massacre and the riots). Multi genres, you could say. But, at heart, Kai Po Che remains an emotional saga of three friends and how it stands the test of time. Very similar in spirit to the director's previous outing Rock On!, Farhan Akhtar's Dil Chahta Hai and Zoya Akhtar's Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, yet different.

In Kai Po Che, Abhishek brings alive the characters and events most persuasively. He borrows from the novel, but at the same time adds a lot to it with his deft execution. Kai Po Che narrates the story of three friends and is based in the city of Ahmedabad. Abhishek Kapoor has the trappings of a first-rate storyteller -- a fact that was evident in his first two endeavors [Aryan, Rock On!]. In several ways, Rock On! and Kai Po Che are analogous, yet divergent. While Rock On! was urban and metro-centric in terms of content, Kai Po Che has the raw emotional appeal of three middle class guys that strikes a chord with just about anybody and everybody. The three pivotal parts, enacted effortlessly by Sushant Singh Rajput, Rajkumar Yadav and Amit Sadh, are the heartbeats of the enterprise. Sushant is a terrific actor, is blessed with wonderful screen presence and gets the timing of his character right. I see tremendous potential in him! Rajkumar Yadav has proved his credentials in the past and shines yet again in a role that's in sharp contrast to the other two characters. He's excellent! Amit Sadh is another remarkable talent to watch out for. Sure, he too has a couple of films to his credit, but his performance in this film will make people notice him. Besides, their on-screen camaraderie is truly infectious. Amrita Puri leaves a strong impression in a movie that's an all-boys' show predominantly.

The supporting cast is equally super. Manav Kaul is magnificent, taking his character to another level. Asif Basra does a splendid job. Digvijay Deshmukh [as Ali] is a revelation. He's incredible!
Verdict: On the whole, Kai Po Che is brimming with solid content. Watch it for the spirit it is made in. Watch it because it's the kind of cinema that pushes the boundaries. Watch it because movies like KAI PO CHE need to be encouraged. A film that deserves an ovation!
Rating: ****

Tushar Joshi, DNA
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 2001 Gujarat earthquake.

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.
Verdict: 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.
Rating: ***1/2

Saibal Chatterjee, NDTV
Three buddies battle themselves and the world in pursuit of their dreams. So what’s new? Over the last decade and a bit, Hindi cinema has spun many such tales with success (Dil Chahta Hai, Rang De Basanti, 3 Idiots, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara). The broad similarities apart, Kai Po Che isn't the same kettle of fish – the film is set against the backdrop of the Gujarat riots of a decade ago. It is the first commercial Mumbai movie to go there.

It might not induce instant superlatives. But Kai Po Che is a competently crafted, well acted and consistently engaging drama that makes its point without sinking into preachy paroxysms. While the catastrophes, one natural, the other politically orchestrated, constitute the principal flashpoints of the narrative, it is the story of love, friendship and dreams that Kai Po Che is primarily about. The movie makes no grand statement about the dynamics of communal violence – it is quite apparent that isn’t its intention. In a way, this on-the-surface quality of the treatment works in the film’s favour.

Kai Po Che taps the obvious things – cricket, religion, politics, kite flying, Garba dance and the game of marbles – as it focuses on the eddies of Gujarat’s contemporary history as reflected in the fate of a bunch of believable, ordinary youngsters. Pretty much in the manner of the piece of fiction that it is adapted from (Chetan Bhagat’s The 3 Mistakes of My Life), Kai Po Che keeps things simple and uncluttered. That enhances the film’s mass appeal quotient without compromising on the consistent tinge of realism that director and co-screenwriter Abhishek Kapoor imparts to the tale. As external forces beyond their control and comprehension intervene repeatedly, the threesome is pushed into trying situations that are fraught with danger.
Verdict: Kai Po Che is a must watch.
Ratings: ***1/2

Rubina A Khan, Firstpost
Kai Po Che, set in 2000, is a story about the three musketeers of Gujarat – Ishaan Bhatt, Omi Shastri and Govind – 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.

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.
Verdict: Kai Po Che is a good film, but not a great film.
Rating: ***

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