Movie Review: Kai Po Che! (2013)

Kai_Poche_film_poster4 Stars (out of 4)

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Kai Po Che! gets its title from a Gujarati phrase shouted in celebration during the annual kite festival in Ahmedabad. There’s reason to celebrate, as this is a great movie.

If Kai Po Che! has any flaw, it’s in the way the film begins. The film opens with a man named Govi picking up another man, Omi, upon his release from prison. Omi asks where Ishaan is, and Govi explains that Ishaan will meet them at the cricket stadium. Then a subtitle reads “Ten Years Earlier” to signal the real beginning of the story.

Opening with present day footage only to flash back to the real story is the trendy way to start a movie these days, but I suspect the technique will seem dated in the years to come. Rather than watching the story as it unfolds, the audience is forced to ponder questions throughout the whole movie, such as when and how Omi is going to wind up in jail. It’s distracting. However, I’m willing to forgive the opening because the technique is currently so common and because the rest of the movie is essentially flawless.

The three disparate friends —Β Govi (Raj Kumar Yadav), Omi (Amit Sadh), and Ishaan (Sushant Singh Rajput) — are united in their struggle to figure out what to do now that they’re adults. Straight-laced Govi plans to open a sporting goods store and cricket academy, if only he can get his two layabout buddies to cooperate.

The plan hinges on Ishaan, a cricket player with enough talent to be a local hero, but not enough to play in the big leagues. Having sailed through life on his athletic prowess and his family’s wealth, Ishaan is not in a hurry to grow up.

Omi is the most intriguing of the three. He’s devoted to Ishaan and resents when Govi chastises the cricketer for being lazy and selfish. Omi demands respect but does nothing to earn it.

As the business takes off — thanks to a loan from Omi’s shady politician uncle, Bittoo (Manav Kaul) — the three friends undergo some major changes. Govi starts a clandestine friendship with Ishaan’s younger sister, Vidya (Amrita Puri). Ishaan devotes his attention to developing the talents of a promising young cricketer, Ali (Digvijay Deshmukh). That leaves Omi on the outside, making him easy prey for ambitious Bittoo.

The friends’ lives are also shaped by real-life events that occurred in Ahmedabad in the early 2000s, including a devastating earthquake. The city is rife with religious and political tension between Bittoo’s majority Hindu party and the Muslim-favored party, lead by Ali’s father.

All of the circumstances allow for tremendous character growth, and the actors perform brilliantly. Yadav and Rajput get to have the most fun, with Govi growing (slightly) more rebellious just as Ishaan becomes more responsible.

Sadh is fascinating as Omi. Early in the film, while Omi is still firmly in Ishaan’s thrall, there’s a dimness in Omi’s eyes. While it’s obvious that Ishaan isn’t living up to his potential, it seems like Omi has reached his: Ishaan’s toady for life. Only when Omi feels himself pushed aside for Ishaan’s twelve-year-old protege does the spark alight in his eyes, and not in a good way.

The story is so well-paced and allows enough time to establish a real sense of place. Ahmedabad is shown as full of opportunity, if only nature and the people who live there will cooperate. Kai Po Che! is a nice tribute to the city and the notion of friendship that endures through dramatic changes.


34 thoughts on “Movie Review: Kai Po Che! (2013)

  1. Shah Shahid

    Dying to watch this! And concidently, the director’s first film, ROCK ON had a similar style of storytelling with present day / flashback sequences.

    The only reason I’m even interested in this is because it’s Kapoor’s 2nd film. I thought ROCK ON was the 1st ever Bollywood movie about a “VHS: Where are they now” type of story that wasn’t seen before.

    1. Kathy

      Between this and Patang, Ahmedabad is getting a lot of screentime lately, meera. My goal is to make it there for the kite festival some day.

      1. meeradarjiyr1

        You should definitely go and visit, its beautiful! They also now have new roads and separate bus lanes, plus new malls! Its more advance than people assume. I want to visit some time this year too πŸ™‚

  2. Vivian

    Wow! 4 stars yet again, two 4 star ratings in 2 months, first Matru and now Kai Po Che. Even my predictions of movies have come right. At the end of last year I was waiting for 4 movies Matru, Special 26, ABCD and this one and so far all of them were good.

    Reading from your review, the beginning seems completely different from how it was in the book. Anyways I’ve booked my tickets for today’s afternoon show, will watch the movie first and then post here.

  3. Anushka

    The reception for this film has been really great,mostly very positive!And I Loved Rock on!!.I am sure I am not gonna miss this one.Its Feb and already two films with 4 stars on ur blog.Not bad at all,isn’t it?lol πŸ™‚

    1. Kathy

      You and Vivian both pointed it out, Anushka: so far, Bollywood has turned out some great movies in 2013. My favorite films of 2012 (Kahaani) and 2011 (7 Khoon Maaf) also released early in the year (March and February, respectively). I’m curious to see if trend holds for 2013.

    1. Kathy

      Thanks, Keyur. I read another review that also took issue with the second half of the film, as you did. I’ll be seeing Zila Ghaziabad on Monday, so let’s see if our opinions are in sync on that one. πŸ™‚

      1. Keyur Seta

        Thanks Kathy πŸ™‚
        By the way, I am not going to watch Zilla Ghaziabad. It has got a terrible response here both from the critics and the audience πŸ˜€
        But I am very excited for The Attacks Of 26/11 πŸ™‚


  4. mayank nailwal

    hi kathy. Always m used to read your reviews and most of the time i feel very satisfied with them, same as with ur review to kai po che. I loved the movie. Mainly coz of the realism, great performances(i liked sushant the most), mesmerising music and brilliant cinematography. And sure, Ahemdabad is a great place, visit someday.

  5. Vivian

    Watched the movie, am a bit dissapointed with it, was expecting a lot from the movie especially as I have read the book but it just did not live up to my expectations. As an audience I just could not connect to any of the characters and also felt a lot was missing from the movie that was in the book. Last year this happened with Shanghai and now its Kai Po Che.

    And talking about upcoming movies Kathy, I personally dont see any good ones coming up in the next few months atleast. Attacks of 26/11 looks interesting but then its by Ram Gopal Verma, who seems to have lost his touch of the late 90’s early 2000’s. (His movies used to be different, liked quite a few of his movies from the earlier years Satya, Rangeela, Bhoot, Company, Sarkar.. Rangeela being one of my fav.)

    1. Kathy

      Sorry the film didn’t live up to the book, Vivian. As for “The Attacks of 26/11,” I’m looking forward to playing my favorite RGV game: counting how many scenes are filmed from a camera positioned underneath a glass coffee table. Right now, I’m conservatively predicting ten.

      1. Vivian

        Haha so true , let me see.. I say eight πŸ˜€

        Do let me know the count after the movie as I wont be watching it to count it myself πŸ˜€

        1. Kathy

          When I saw “Department” in the theater, the second-to-last film reel was improperly aligned so that it projected the images backwards and upside-down. I honestly did not know that anything was wrong for about three minutes, until the subtitles showed up at the top of the screen. I just thought it was RGV going crazy with his camera techniques again! That said, I’m really fond of my review of “Department”:

          1. Shah Shahid

            Hahahaha. That just proves that he works foreseeing the incompetence of others, so the audience can enjoy his films regardless of any technical errors. πŸ˜‰

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