Tag Archives: Amrita Puri

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 — 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.

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Movie Review: Aisha (2010)

2.5 Stars (out of 4)

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Jane Austen’s novel, Emma, has inspired numerous adaptations in the nearly 200 years since it was first published. The latest onscreen version, Aisha, is watchable, but its heroine misses the mark.

In this modern Indian update, directed by Rajshree Ojha, Emma is renamed Aisha (Sonam Kapoor): a wealthy girl from Delhi who fancies herself an expert matchmaker. Her intrusiveness and inability to read people winds up complicating the lives of all around her.

Of particular interest to Aisha is Shefali (Amrita Puri), a small-town girl who’s looking for a husband. Shefali presents a convenient means for Aisha to rid herself of her own dorky suitor, Randhir (Cyrus Sahukar). She sets about trying to force the two to fall in love, with disastrous results.

Debutant actress Puri does a lovely job as Shefali. She’s desperate not to disappoint Aisha, yet incapable of becoming the society girl she’s expected to be. The earnestness and excitability Puri brings to the role is spot on.

American filmgoers will find Aisha very accessible. The characters’ addictions to trendy fashions and designer labels is universal among young people with money to burn. The story is structured like many Hollywood movies (though it’s occasionally bogged down by the song-and-dance montages unique to Bollywood). A familiar story helps as well.

Emma Woodhouse is an enduring character because of her complexities: supreme self-assurance paired with a lack of real world experience, a compassionate nature mixed with uncontrollable nosiness. Like Emma herself, Sonam Kapoor lacks the experience to make Aisha an appealing leading lady. Kapoor plays Aisha as woefully immature, to the point that she seems like the lone adolescent in a world full of adults.

Kapoor delivers her lines with whiny condescension. When Aisha finally apologizes for her mistakes, it seems as if she’s doing so just so that people won’t be mad at her, and not because she’s gained any insight her own behavior. She responds to a declaration of love with a shrill and insincere, “Really?”

In the movie Clueless — another modern remake of Emma, from 1995 — the main character narrates the movie. It allows the audience to hear her thoughts, testifying to her change of character. A similar technique would’ve been useful in Aisha.

Despite a lackluster heroine, Aisha has a great supporting cast. In addition to Puri’s solid turn as Shefali, Abhay Deol reaffirms his rising star status with a charming and authentic performance as Arjun, Aisha’s long-time neighbor and friend (the George Knightly role in Emma).

The character who undergoes the most emotional growth throughout the story is Aisha’s best friend, Pinky (Ira Dubey). Pinky begins the movie as Aisha’s cynical sidekick, snobbishly looking down upon everyone but Aisha. There’s a moment when she realizes that she’s been too hard on Randhir, and it changes her outlook on life. Too bad Aisha didn’t experience such growth herself.

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