In one of the many delectable scenes offered in last week’s release Kai Po Che, three friends in their early 20s sit in a newly purchased car musing coyly about their futures where in one of them promises to use his money to fulfill the other’s dream of having a cricket academy, that is if he does succeed in his own power struggle. The lovely piece ends with the camera actually zooming out of the car to show that they were not driving the car, but had merely sneaked in to an unsold car being transported for sale in a trailer on a highway. This moment, in all its frivolity and lack of assumption, defines an extended image of the current state of India, or more specifically the young India, the India of Kai Po Che.
In Abhishek Kapoor‘s Kai Po Che, a film whose lasting loveliness and stunning assuredness has become the talking point for everyone in the last one week, Raj Kumar Yadav plays a money-minded, suitably ambitious and relatively logical guy, Amit Sadh plays an affable simpleton who is easily convinced while Sushant Singh Rajput plays hot-headed wistful star-gazer who can do anything for his friends. If you look at each of these character arcs beyond the moolah of friendship which the film holds very dear to its journey, Yadav is a budding capitalist, Sadh is a potential politician (though he does take the plunge later on) and Rajput is just a dreamer.
In a dramatically extrapolated manner, the three characters are derived from the three basic types of people you see in India, or young India, except that very few aspire to get into the putrid mess of politics, but more on that later. And yet, it is the passion for Cricket (if not movies) that dreamily brings them together from the murky avenues of separation, dissimilitude and struggle. In this case, it is the historic 2001 Test Match between India and Australia where Harbhajan Singh took a hat-trick and India won the game coming out from a follow-on. Cricket cures the smaller crevices in their friendship but may not be the best balm for a much larger follow-on.
Much of India or what happens in India is a direct result of actions of either the capitalists, politicians or dreamers. There is also a fourth kind of people in this country, in reality. I call them the conformists.These conformists, have all either been ex-dreamers, failed capitalists or disinterested politicians. They have set up their lives, or an idea of it, in a certain way and don’t want it to change for the better or worse from there. Seemingly enough, they comprise the majority in India. Yet, if India wins a Cricket World Cup, or any major series, they all come together in unison to celebrate and commemorate.
But Kapoor’s cinema is more aspirational than averageness. He is meticulously affixed on his vision of the three primary kinds of Indian people, whose actions actually make a difference around us, more often than not. Despite staging major event situations around the turn of the millennium, the story does remain very personal to the three friends, and Kapoor doesn’t feel the need to let it soar beyond this focal point to realize the suggested extrapolation, and rightly so. This is where his masterstroke lies in.
Also, this is where the above mentioned car scene comes into place. The trio of Kai Po Che, despite loaded with a semblance of capitalists, politicians or dreamers of India, are still prudish commoners, the youngsters who are united by cricket and friendship and whose goals in life are still being capped by their current realities, like in this case you find out they have not actually bought the car and are just pretending to drive it on top of a trailer. This is symptomatic with most of India today. All of us may have the traits of one of the different kinds of people but the wings of our dreams and goals are still being clipped by some or the other small-scale issue around us, rather than major events that affect the country as a whole. For most of us, it is our local or personal struggles that deem more significance than the events that make it to the newspapers. And much like the film itself, the dreamers are always at loss amongst the others.
Chetan Bhagat‘s novels have a strong sense of the middle-class India where the squabbles are rooted more in societal expectations and norms rather than in national issues. But they also tend towards melodrama and cliche to succumb to a populist ending. In real India, that may not always happen, and this is exactly where Kai Po Che undoes the Bollywood quotient to tell a more acceptable tale, yet keeping all ingredients of an entertainer intact. Kai Po Che stays very true to these nuances, and hence it reflects India more than most others movies in this genre and thus, making itself all the more likable. Indeed, it is a good time for Indian cinema when less people are scared of making the films they want to make.