There are two fantastic recent books, both of which were adapted for the screen. One was “The Silver Linings Playbook”, which is now an Oscar nominated film starring Bradley Cooper and our very own Anupam Kher. The other book was Chetan Bhagat’s “The 3 Mistakes of My Life”. First published in 2008 and easily one of Chetan’s best, many of us never contemplated that it would become a feature length film. For those who may not have read the book, you may be equally anticipating director Abhishek Kapoor’s follow up to Rock On!!, which coincidentally was also released in 2008. So our review will focus on the book’s adaptation and director’s performance in parallel.
Set in 2000, in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, Kai Po Che covers the story of three close friends: Govind, Ishaan and Omi. Each friend has their own distinct personality and hopes. From the ambitious entrepreneur Govind, to the hot-tempered cricket protegee Ishaan, to the more naive, but loyal son of a priest, Omi. Their relationships are tested repeatedly against the backdrop of the Gujarat earthquake in 2001 and the horrific Gujarat communal violence in 2002. Despite these calamities, the three friends march on with their dreams of opening a cricket shop, forbidden love and nurturing a young boy with extraordinary cricketing skills! As with the book, the film is multi-layered in its characterisations, sub-plots and overall narrative. Chetan Bhagat has teamed up with the films director and a couple of others to develop the screenplay, ensuring that the essence of the book – friendship, is retained throughout a film which covers religion, politics, sports, ambition, and love.
The key to any book adaptation is the casting, in that how well can you visualise the characters of the book on screen. This is often a department which fails to gain prominence in Bollywood, partly due to the star system which is in place, but kudos here to the team of Kai Po Che for selecting actors and actresses who were not only unknown, but also matched the characters from the book. As books are all about their characters, we could go on and on about how each actor was well suited to play the original characters from the book, but rather than simply give the actors compliments, the credit really should go to the director and in this case Mukesh Chhabra (casting director) and Akash Dahiya (casting associate). One of the key successes of Kai Po Che the film is clearly the selection of its cast.
A largely unknown and inexperienced cast add to the realness of the film. Had known actors or big stars been selected for Kai Po Che, it would have reduced the feel and look of the film. Raj Kumar Yadav, who plays Govind fits the character perfectly as the most geekiest, but maturest of the friends. Ishaan is played by film debutant Sushant Singh Rajput and as per the book is the most macho and hero like of the all the characters. He quietly reminds you of a combination of Vivek Oberoi and Ranveer Singh! Again Amit Sadh is also perfectly cast as the more innocent, but brutish Omi. In what is quite a male dominated film, we have to make a special mention of perhaps the only female character Vidya, who is played to a tee by Amrita Puri, as the playful and mischievous younger sister of Ishaan.
Kai Po Che is an excellent example of all parts of the production team coming together to deliver an excellent product – from casting, to costumes (Niharika Khan), production design (Sonal Sawant) to set decoration (Rosie Maria Tharakan), in order to create a film which is an excellent translation of its original source material. The music, by Amit Trivedi, is rural in its sound and appeal, keeping in mind the theme and location of the book. On that same note the cinematography (Anay Goswami) of the film provided visuals which really bought the book to life. Much like some recent films have achieved, for example Gangs of Wasseypur, the cinematography played a crucial part in making you connect to the story and characters.
Last, but not least, director Abhishek Kapoor has drawn some amazing performances from a lesser experienced cast and taken a book which may not have originally held all the classic ingredients for a commercial film and has delivered one of India’s finest films, perhaps since Udaan. He also delivers a film which is so completely different from his earlier works. Kai Po Che has already won over critics and audiences at the Berlin Film Festival and we are sure it will do the same worldwide when it releases on Friday, February 22nd. One not to miss!
A final thought we leave you with is this, the book was called ‘The 3 Mistakes of My Life’ and is narrated by Govind. If you have not had a chance to read the book, can you guess what those three mistakes were from watching the film?