The three musketeers
We have seen it all before - the testosterone-driven, male bonding act in Bollywood movies as diverse as Dil Chahta Hai, Rang De Basanti, Zindagi Na Milega Dobara and Rock On among others.
So when director Abhishek Kapoor gets ready to unleash the power of the youth yet again in Kai Po Che this weekend, there are bound to be a few sceptics among the audience, wondering what all the fuss is about.
But a chat with the young cast of the movie (coupled with a sneak peek of the movie UTV offered us ahead of its general release in Dubai) sets the ball rolling.
For Sushant Singh Rajput, Raj Kumar Yadav and Amit Sadh, who play the main protagonists of the film, are as refreshing, down-to-earth and talented as they come.
The Kai Po Che stars Raj Kumar Yadav, Sushant Singh Rajput and Amit Sadh at the Khaleej Times office
Having proved their credentials in various acting projects – Sushant and Amit on television and Raj Kumar in theatre – the trio are aware they have chosen an unconventional route to stardom and seem more than ready to hit the big league.
Based on Chetan Bhagat’s best-seller The 3 Mistakes of My Life, Kai Po Che casts the three as friends growing up in a small town in Gujarat.
Here we dissect the talented trio so you know who’s who when you watch the movie:
Sushant Singh Rajput
CLAIM TO FAME: He famously dropped out of an engineering course to pursue his passion for acting. “The process of creating a character was very magical for me. I was intrigued by it so I started with theatre. Television happened in between. I quit that and films happened. So my career seems to be taking its own course.”
TV fans will better remember him as Preet from Kis Desh Mein Hai Meraa Dil and Manav of Pavitra Rishta. While Kai Po Che may not have given him much scope to display his dancing skills, this self-confessed dancing addict has proved his sleight of feet in reality shows like Zara Nachke Dikha and Jhalak Dikhla Jaa.
Sushant, who underwent rigorous training to play cricket crazy Ishaan in the movie, turns in an impressive performance as a laid-back small town boy whose aggressive nature comes to the fore when he begins to mentor Ali, a young Muslim boy with a natural talent for the game.
QUOTE UNQUOTE: “While The 3 Mistakes of My Life talks about many things - sports, religion, politics - the film largely focuses on the friendship between these guys. The context is the same - the characters and the incidents are the same, but the focus is on male bonding. Abhishek (director) has taken the book to another level altogether.”
“We have a wonderful story to tell. Kai Po Che is a very honest film - people who go and watch it will definitely be entertained.”
BOLLYWOOD INSPIRATION: “I am very inspired by Shah Rukh Khan. He is such a powerful and intelligent actor.” And while SRK might have his ardent admiration, Sushant also makes it clear that far from emulating any one star he would rather have others follow his career graph.
FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT: The lanky actor seems destined for the big league. He has already signed on with Yash Raj Films for director Maneesh Sharma’s project opposite Parineeti Chopra. As if that was not good enough, he will also be seen sharing screen space with Aamir Khan and Anushka Sharma in Rajkumar Hirani’s Peekay.
STAR RATING: He has got the screen presence and the talent to boot, not to forget female fans galore. All he has to do is work on his conversational skills – but who knows his shy persona may just be his USP.
LOVE CONNECTION: He is dating Ankita Lokhande, his co-star from Pavitra Rishta. And unlike other stars, he has no qualms admitting to us “he has no personal life” while bemoaning the fact that he didn’t get to spend Valentine’s Day with his girl courtesy of his Dubai visit.
Raj Kumar Yadav
CLAIM TO FAME: A graduate from the prestigious Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, Raj Kumar honed his skills in theatre before he launched his solo career in Bollywood with Love Sex Aur Dhoka. This was followed by another starring role in Ragini MMS. He went on to do Gangs of Wasseypur (“I’m a huge fan of Anurag Kashyap and just couldn’t say no to him), Chittagong and Talaash. “I could not even read the script before signing on for Talaash since that was part of the deal – because of the climax, they were not showing the script to anyone,” he tells us.
As enterprising businessman Govind, Raj Kumar plays his role to perfection in Kai Po Che. The fact that he is the only one among the three to have a love story going on in the movie (with Amrita Puri playing his romantic interest) leads to a lot of playful banter among the three at our office. And to pacify his two friends, he finally concedes: “Okay, there are two tracks in the films – one is romance, the other is bromance (between Ishaan and Omi’s characters)!
QUOTE UNQUOTE: “The movie better be a hit, only then will films like this be made and actors like us get work. Nobody will take a risk on actors like us who are starting out on our careers if this doesn’t do well. “
BOLLYWOOD INSPIRATION: “My only motivation to do Talaash was that I get to work with Aamir Khan – there is so much one can learn from him.”
FUTURE PERFECT: For someone who believes “every film has its own destiny,” the stars seem to be smiling brightly on this actor. He is awaiting the release of Shahid (a film based on human rights activist Shahid Azmi that was screened at DIFF) in June-July, following which he has Queen (a love story) opposite Kangna Ranaut to look forward to.
LOVE CONNECTION: His friends describe him as an “eternal romantic” and he was not averse to admitting he has a steady girlfriend in his life.
STAR QUOTIENT: If he continues to choose his roles wisely as he has been doing so far, there is no reason why he shouldn’t go far.
CLAIM TO FAME: He first shot to fame as Adi in TV series Kyun Hota Hai Pyaar and went on to be part of reality shows such as Big Boss and Nach Baliye. From there he jumped to the big screen with roles in Phoonk 2 and Maximum. Quiz him on how he landed a plum role in Kai Po Che, and he explains it away as, “good luck on a good day.” As Omi, he plays a happy-go-lucky small-town boy in Kai Po Che who is content to go along with his friends’ plans till he gets drawn into the political arena.
BOLLYWOOD INSPIRATION: While his co-stars bandied about names like SRK and Aamir, Sadh finds his inspiration in more unconventional heroes like Irrfan Khan, Balraj Sahni, Al Pacino and Dustin Hoffman. “Emulating a certain star will not work because what works for him may not work in your favour,” he says.
QUOTE UNQUOTE: “I believe that a film finds you - as actors, one common factor is that we want to do films where we can better ourselves as actors and be part of great stories.”
FUTURE LOOKS PROMISING: While his two co-stars already have a handful of big banners to work with, Sadh surprisingly chose to remain silent on his future plans. “It’s taken me six years to land this movie. I hope it doesn’t take me that long to get the next one!”
The most out-spoken among the three, we are sure we will be seeing more of this Delhi lad on our big screens. As he puts it: “I hope when they (filmmakers) see Kai Po Che, they will give me more work.
ROMANTIC ENTANGLEMENTS: Though Sadh was the first to point out to us, “I am single”, we are sure it won’t be for long. He was engaged to fellow television actor Neeru Bajwa for seven years during which the couple even made their big-screen outing in Phoonk 2. During the making of this movie, stories of his close association with costume designer Niharika Khan began doing the rounds. In real life, Sadh is quite the charmer – as we experienced first hand when he dropped into our office on Valentine’s Day.
Behind the scenes
One is anacclaimed filmmaker who made great strides with his 2008 film Rock On!! and the other is a writer whose recent novels have eclipsed his contemporaries in sales and now spawned three Bollywood adaptations. Together they are sitting pretty, secure in the knowledge that their latest endeavour, Kai Po Che!, is about to hit the big time. Speaking to Abhishek Kapoor and Chetan Bhagat over the phone, one can almost sense that the duo is well aware of this fact. Calm, collected and insightful, replies to the lines of inquiry are not full of the usual pre-Thursday release patter. Instead, batting through the questioning like the well-trained cricketer Kai Po Che!’s plot centres on, both men appear sure that they’re on to something special.
“I read the book and the first thing that jumped out at me was that it was an opportunity to tell an Indian story on screen,” began Abhishek. “The plot involves a part of our history and the journey the guys go on is a uniquely Indian one.”
An adaptation of Chetan’s The 3 Mistakes of My Life, Kai Po Che! charts the story of three friends as they evolve from unemployed adolescents to successful sports academy owners. Set against the backdrop of the 2002 Gujarat communal riots, the strong bonds the trio share are put to the test as loyalties are questioned and social boundaries are drawn.
“I identified with the lead character Ishaan. I have friends like the other two, so the story really resonated with me. Each plays his part and they complete each other,” Abhishek continued.
This being his third novel to be hoisted up onto the silver screen after One Night @ the Call Centre became Hello and Five Point Someone transformed into 3 Idiots, it was put to Chetan whether he now writes books with the movie script in mind.
“I write what I want to write,” was his denial. He went on to explain: “In this book, for example, I wrote about a lot of the sensitive things that happened in Gujarat. I had no idea that people would want to pick that up as it could be seen as quite serious.
“One Night @ the Call Centre also did not lend itself well to the Bollywood format.
“I’m glad that these stories translate well to the screen, but I don’t think I could ever take that into consideration.”
Taking on the role of co-screenplay writer in Kai Po Che!, Chetan intoned that this picture was as close to his original vision as was possible. However, that has not always been the case with his other works.
“It depends on the director usually, but I was involved from the start with this one. In the other ones, I have not been included as much.
“When I saw the trailer for Kai Po Che! I was happy. There are changes in the story, but this is how I imagined the characters to look. The director has done a good job in bringing the words to life.”
High praise indeed from the man whose mind dreamt up the protagonists and the situation in which they find themselves.
The trouble for a director when transferring an already popular book onto celluloid is often managing the fans’ expectations. Those that love the novel will have such high hopes for their heroes that they are usually dashed. Abhishek, though, did not see beginning the project as any different to starting a regular picture.
“A director is always under pressure,” he stated. “It doesn’t matter if it is an adaptation and the book is already popular, every new film has to offer something original. For those that have read it, hopefully it will satisfy their imagination as it has mine and for those that haven’t, they will get to know and love these characters for the first time.”
And how apprehensive was he that he would not be working with any stars? Or, did that have a positive effect on the filming process?
“The temptation was there to put in a name. Initially we tried that, but we decided one star would take too much focus away from the other two.
“It is like they are all one person when they are together, so to do that would mean that personalities would be lost or overshadowed. They all have to be equals to be convincing.”
Having witnessed the magic first-hand, the decision was a correct one. ‘Convincing’ is not a superior enough superlative to justify the camaraderie and thus the overall film it enhances. ‘Majestic,’ ‘magnificent,’ and ‘marvellous,’ may be more appropriate alternatives, or perhaps a simple cry of ‘Kai Po Che!’ as the credits roll may suffice.