Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

February 22, 2013

Playing for keeps

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:52 pm

February 22, 2013

Cast: Sushant Singh Rajput, Amit Sadh, Rajkumar Yadav, Amrita Puri, Manav Kaul

Director: Abhishek Kapoor

Its title derived from that cry of victory yelled out when an opponent has been defeated in a kite flying challenge, Kai Po Che translates literally as “Gotcha!” An apt expression, perhaps, to describe the home run director Abhishek Kapoor delivers through this moving film about a friendship challenged by real-life tragedies.

Rooting a simple story in a realistic middle-class world far removed from the glossy surfaces of Rock On!, Kapoor can’t shake off his fascination for buddy pictures, but in Kai Po Che we’re treated to a more honest, assured portrait of friendship that never feels as conventional as his National Award-winning previous film.

Based on a novel by Chetan Bhagat, the film, set in the year 2000, focuses on three childhood pals who pool in their skills and resources to set up a sports shop-cum-cricket academy in their Ahmedabad neighborhood. A brilliant sportsman in his school days, hot-headed slacker Ishaan (Sushant Singh Rajput) commits himself to coaching young hopefuls. Omi (Amit Sadh) taps his local politician uncle for a loan to set up the enterprise, while business-minded Govind (Rajkumar Yadav) takes on the responsibility of maintaining accounts. But just as things are looking up for our earnest protagonists, a series of unforeseeable events threatens to destroy their business and their years-old friendship.

Weighed down by a loan he can’t repay, Omi is forced into taking on an active role in his uncle’s fundamentalist Hindu party. Govind, meanwhile, becomes romantically involved with Ishaan’s feisty sister (Amrita Puri), whom he’s been tutoring in math. And Ishaan becomes obsessed with grooming a young Muslim kid with immense batting potential. The earthquake of January 2001 that ripped through the city and claimed thousands of lives not only quashes Govind’s dreams of business expansion, but also drives a rift between Ishaan and Omi, who find themselves on the opposite sides of a communal divide.

Skillfully shifting gears from the light-hearted camaraderie of our heroes in the opening act, to the emotional abyss they’re thrust into in the film’s final half hour, Kapoor maintains an unhurried pace and an even tone. Despite the excessive cricket jargon likely to throw off non-sports enthusiasts, you’re drawn into the trio’s world, engaged by their simple joys, concerned for their dilemmas. How do you resist a smile as they plunge into the sea from the top of a fort? Or as each makes his way to the roof of a bus as they head out to celebrate their first earnings?

Kai Po Che is filled with such lovely moments, but the story doesn’t linger on this bonhomie. The earthquake, a thrilling India-Australia test-series, followed by the devastating Godhra massacre and the riots of 2002 colors our protagonists’ friendship. Brick by brick, the screenplay builds up the tempo, until the climax delivers its sucker punch. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by the film’s piercing finale.

Much of the film’s success lies in its spot-on casting, even of solid actors in supporting roles, like Manav Kaul playing Omi’s manipulative Bittu mama. Meanwhile, all three leads sink their teeth into nicely etched roles. The abundantly gifted Rajkumar Yadav brings an awkward charm to Govind, turning this penny-pinching, tight-fisted fellow into a living, breathing everyman. Amit Sadh oozes vulnerability in every scene that Omi appears in, and convincingly conveys the character’s inner conflict. But it’s Sushant Singh Rajput, making his film debut as Ishaan, who it’s hard to take your eyes off. The actor has an indescribable presence, and it’s clear from his confidence and distinct likeability that a star is born.

At a crisp two hours, Kai Po Che is enriched by its sweeping score and by Kapoor’s deft handling of the film’s varied moods. For evidence of his considerable growth as a director one needn’t look much further than the palpable dread he infuses into scenes of an angry Hindutva mob storming a Muslim ghetto, and the light-handed touch he brings to the portions of the three friends goofing around. Kapoor tackles sensitive issues like the Gujarat riots with equanimity and empathy, and Anay Goswamy’s terrific camerawork complements the director’s vision intuitively.

I’m going with four out of five for Kai Po Che. It’s only February, but one of the year’s best films has arrived.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)


  1. Must watch movie..
    Lovely moments..

    Comment by Hemanth — February 22, 2013 @ 11:25 pm

  2. saw d movie..nothing exceptional..cinematography is good, background score is good..songs by amit trivedi are good..wanted to show everything from cricket, riot, politics, friendship but nothing stands out. just an average movie..everything happens too easily.

    Comment by deepsikhar — February 22, 2013 @ 11:49 pm

  3. Can’t wait to see the movie. The review given here makes the craving even stringer.

    Comment by brave — February 23, 2013 @ 12:51 am

  4. Hi Rajeev, love reading and listening your reviews.
    They are in detail and gives you the insight of the film. Good luck.

    Comment by Anup Soni — February 23, 2013 @ 1:07 am

  5. movies like KAI PO CHE need to be
    encouraged. A film that deserves an ovation!

    Comment by ishtkam pandey — February 23, 2013 @ 4:50 am

  6. Really nice review keep up the great work Mr.Masand 🙂 Here’s is my review of ‘Kai Po Che’ http://aajani.blogspot.ca/2013/02/movie-review-kai-po-che_4599.html

    Comment by Amin Ajani — February 23, 2013 @ 6:20 am

  7. thanx for your review sir. vaise meri exams chal rahi he lekin me ye movie dekhne jarur jaunga only beacouse u gave 4 star.

    Comment by rahul — February 23, 2013 @ 8:31 am

  8. its a warm heart touching movie … dont compare it with novle but comparisions will happen i guess…. go find ur life

    Comment by satish — February 23, 2013 @ 8:49 am

  9. Now , that’s a strong recommendation 🙂 . . . i am already bowled by it’s Music & it’s Original script by Chetan bhagat . . . and now rushing towards the CINEMA !

    Comment by Nirav — February 23, 2013 @ 10:02 am

  10. Totally agree with u.

    Comment by Samy — February 23, 2013 @ 12:10 pm

  11. Completely agree with u.

    Comment by Samy — February 23, 2013 @ 12:11 pm

  12. Astonishing movie:) this one deserves a clean sweep at any award ceremony:)

    Comment by Karthik — February 23, 2013 @ 1:44 pm

  13. KPC! Though it is inspired from Bhagat’s least successful Novel it has come out with flying colors.
    Mr.Kapoor made an excellent effort and got his success.

    Comment by Raghuram — February 23, 2013 @ 3:29 pm

  14. My review of the movie Kai Po Che


    Comment by Ashwath — February 23, 2013 @ 5:48 pm

  15. I loved the Novel a lot and was expecting a Big Hit out of this movie.. and it did very happy for Chetan… 3 Mistake of my Life is a good read and my fav indian novel 🙂

    Cheers.. thanks Rajeev for the appreciation…

    Comment by Kishore — February 23, 2013 @ 6:13 pm

  16. WATS NEW.?
    NOT new fresh story..

    Comment by SIDDHARTH — February 23, 2013 @ 6:38 pm

  17. a movie worth watch. sushant singh rajput was awesome.

    Comment by arup — February 24, 2013 @ 3:13 am

  18. a very very apt review by Mr. Masand. he is spot on with the review!!! 🙂

    Comment by Dipayan — February 24, 2013 @ 11:02 am

  19. Simple yet Great movie. Totally agree with ur review.

    Comment by Vivek — February 24, 2013 @ 11:19 am

  20. Damn …. We don’t agree yet again …. Though I myself was very much looking forward to this film …. But when I saw it yesterday … Yaar woh feel nahi Aayi …. Mazza nahi aaya …. The movie was tad too bland for me ….. Though the performances were all terrific …. Anyways I don’t think you read these comments but if you do , it has Ben a long time since you have recommended any DVDs ….. Plz suggest us some crackling movies

    Comment by Sanket — February 24, 2013 @ 11:22 am

  21. its a nice movie.dont wait for raiting just go and watch

    Comment by rohit — February 24, 2013 @ 12:35 pm

  22. Our cinema for the past decade has been hideously trying to imbibe western culture in its expression. “Kai Poo Che” presents you the Indian culture in raw; every single character so subtle, differentiable, with true sensitivities and presence of their own, their vulnerabilities, ambitions, egos, pathos, human tendencies…..….. and so on. What surprises here is Abhishek Kapoor’s craftsmanship, his sensibilities to visualize Chetan’s story and executing it in an inimitable manner. His gifted ability to glorify the characters without befitting them in a larger than life canvas, without being loud and dramatic is amazing and with Kai Poo Che he climbs a step further post the Rock on success.

    Comment by Nitin Sood — February 24, 2013 @ 4:04 pm

  23. Am amazed how something so trashy can be given 4/5. The story, its screen adaptation, the cast, direction and the craft called movie making are all buried deep in the seas. Which target group is this movie made for?

    Merely because it is Chetan Bhagat, a best seller author, many youngsters who remain in awe of his books, especially those who have not had the chance to read beyond his work feel they would be seen as non-literary, non-intellectual when expressing their true feelings about this movie. Pity!

    Am afraid you are way off on this one Rajeev!

    Comment by Rajesh Kumar — February 25, 2013 @ 10:49 am

  24. Kai Po Che: What I Thought!

    Comment by Sohan Surag — February 25, 2013 @ 12:52 pm

  25. Hi Rajeev,

    Liked your review. Do have a look at mine too!



    Comment by Mallika — February 25, 2013 @ 3:03 pm

  26. Very fine film. A very special aspect was the element of forgiveness as shown by the protagonists towards their close friends, even while one friend kills the other unintentionally. Such depiction is rare in cinema. Kudos to the writer!

    Comment by Ravishu Bansal — February 26, 2013 @ 8:01 pm

  27. SSR roxx…nd d rest of
    two r awsm…..way far bttr thn
    Aamir’s 3 idiot. Kai Po Che deserves
    a standing
    ovation . Masterpiece 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Comment by Mehul — February 27, 2013 @ 9:11 am

  28. This is one of the best movie i have ever seen. This kind of movies shows that apart from SRK or ranbir kapoor or sex, great movies are still producing in india.

    Comment by Vishal Sharma — February 28, 2013 @ 10:11 am

  29. yeah..yeah..technically it’s supposed to be good..and well made and all……BUT, I DID’NT ENJOY IT!!! 🙁
    too heavy..same tone, pace and drama all through the 2 hrs… which actor was brilliant..other than politician mamaji??

    special 26 was a fun , entertaining and time- pass movie…

    But, KAI PO CHI……WHY DID I SEE…????

    My rating: 2& 1/2 out of 5.

    Comment by vidgun — February 28, 2013 @ 1:42 pm

  30. Good movie.. my rating 3/5.. sushant singh rajput and the other two are brilliant.. still couldn’t connect as RDB . Simple Story Told in a brilliant way..!!

    Comment by kunwar siddharth — March 1, 2013 @ 12:50 pm

  31. Crap Movie. Head started paining. Dabangg 2 and Race 2 were fat better than this.

    Comment by Bombay — March 1, 2013 @ 10:35 pm

  32. You should probably read the book before writing a review on the film !
    Do not agree with 4 stars !!

    Comment by Nimit — March 2, 2013 @ 7:43 pm

  33. KPC.., Nce movie i going with 3.5/5 rating

    Comment by Ravi kumar — March 2, 2013 @ 8:38 pm

  34. Apart from individual performances & music, nothing was great…

    Comment by Divesh — March 3, 2013 @ 8:41 pm

  35. I have read the book and imagined a high level fantasy world though the incidents were from real life scenario.
    The casting had dropped my intrigue to watch the filmy version to zero, I don’t want to destroy or corrupt the feeling when I think about the book the3mistakes of my life. So I prefer not to watch this film, sometimes books are better than film.
    But u have disclosed the entire story this time which is very unusual!!!

    Comment by Ravi Teja — March 4, 2013 @ 12:52 am

  36. @ Rahul: the movie isn’t going anywhere, give first preference to ur exams. All the best

    Comment by Ravi Teja — March 4, 2013 @ 12:55 am

  37. Looks like this movies is definitely gonna bag all the awards this year.

    Comment by Gururaj — March 4, 2013 @ 10:36 am

  38. Average movie. Nothing more than 2.5 out of 5. Would have done a lot with better script writing. there are a lot of things you need to do differently when you adapt a book for a movie. changing only the ending doesn’t work. 3 idiots is a very good example, which ironically uses concept from one of chetan bhagats book. But the script is very different.

    Comment by Sumukh — March 5, 2013 @ 5:38 pm

  39. I like the movie , a good attempt to adapt the novel.


    Comment by kuldeep — March 9, 2013 @ 1:23 pm

  40. Strongly positive recommendation of a movie that’s pretty average & even worse displays some distinctly partisan political overtones. An otherwise dependable Mr Masand is slipping!

    Comment by Rahul — March 10, 2013 @ 10:13 pm

  41. Kai Po Che is a well made movie but its flawed in a sense that it gives credence to Modi propoganda. It substantiates the theory that riots were a natural reaction to train burning incident. This obviously suit right wing types. There is urgent and humane need to de-link train burning and riots and condemn and punish guilty in both the cases. i am sad how top reviewers in india conveniently avoid social & political issues by refusing to go into that space. Just look how some some reviewers in US tore apart Zero dark thirty for its propoganda on torture

    Comment by Rohit Mishra — March 12, 2013 @ 3:08 pm

  42. what was the third mistake in
    the movie kai po che?
    i understood the first 2 mistakes but not the third one

    Comment by Hiren — March 20, 2013 @ 6:14 pm

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