March Issue 2013

By | Here and Now | Published 7 years ago

Abhishek Kapoor’s third film Kai Po Che! is an earnest look at the friendship of three young men, against the a backdrop of the communal riots in Gujarat in early 2000. It’s a film that ranks above average in the Bollywood genre, but it is a tad too long and unfocused towards the end. Kai Po Che, which is the Gujarati version of the kite-cutting cry “Bo Kata”, is not funny enough in the first half to be deemed a comedy and its second half is over-the-top and melodramatic.

Abhishek Kapoor’s third film Kai Po Che! is an earnest look at the friendship of three young men, against the a backdrop of the communal riots in Gujarat in early 2000. It’s a film that ranks above average in the Bollywood genre, but it is a tad too long and unfocused towards the end. Kai Po Che, which is the Gujarati version of the kite-cutting cry “Bo Kata”, is not funny enough in the first half to be deemed a comedy and its second half is over-the-top and melodramatic.

The most striking aspect of Kai Po Che! is the continual crackling tension throughout the narrative. There’s a very small but significant scene, in which the politican Bittu gives his nephew Omi a pistol to ensure safety in the shop and Ishaan, the fire-brand, picks up the pistol and aims it at Bittu just for fun. It’s a small but powerful sequence that serves as forewarning of what is to follow.

The core of the film, the friendship, is portrayed with a rawness that is rare in Bollywood, but once the film delves into the realm of communal riots and the politics of religion, it loses its focus. The ‘shocker’ at the end leaves one cold, particularly because one sees it coming half an hour before it actually happens. There’s no element of surprise.

That aside, there is a lot to love in this film — elements that somewhat hold this film together. The film doesn’t shove any political or religious stance down your throats and is even-handed in that regard. In the context of the story it tries to tell, that aspect works well but whether it is a truthful depiction of events is another matter. The cricket sequences — and there is a lot of cricket in this movie — are ably directed, even if they tend to get repetitive after a while. Ali has Allah’s blessings, and we get that after he has hit the 7942974th boundary.

That aside, there is a lot to love in this film — elements that somewhat hold this film together. The film doesn’t shove any political or religious stance down your throats and is even-handed in that regard. In the context of the story it tries to tell, that aspect works well but whether it is a truthful depiction of events is another matter. The cricket sequences — and there is a lot of cricket in this movie — are ably directed, even if they tend to get repetitive after a while. Ali has Allah’s blessings, and we get that after he has hit the 7942974th boundary.

So, where does one slot this film?

Kai Po Che! had its predominantly German audience in raptures when it premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in February. If only it had been a bit more focused towards the end and cut back on its melodrama quotient, Abhishek Kapoor would have had a sure-fire winner.

Schayan Riaz is a film critic based in Germany