Kai Po Che: High fliers

Kai Po Che
As a part of 2013's first edition of Screen Preview, film-maker Abhishek Kapoor, newbies Sushant Singh Rajput, Raj Kumar, Amit Sadh along with producer Siddharth Roy Kapur get candid on what Kai Po Che implies, need to rope in fresh talent, reasons for having only three songs in the film and more

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Siddharth, how did you go about the process of acquiring the rights of Chetan Bhagat's The 3 Mistakes Of My Life that has been adapted into Kai Po Che?

Siddharth Roy Kapur: After watching Rock On!!, we have always wanted to work with Gattu (Abhishek Kapoor). When we spoke with him, he gave us a script which was one of those scripts that you yearn to come by. We get 7-10 scripts a week; some are good but there are very few that make you feel that this is a story that has to be told. When he told us that he wanted to make the film with us, we jumped at that opportunity. He had already spoken with Chetan (Bhagat). In fact, Chetan collaborated with him on the script, so we didn't have to acquire the rights of the book as Chetan and Gattu had already worked that out together.

Like other producers, is Disney UTV actively looking at acquiring rights of books that can be adapted into films?

SRK: Yes. It is great that English writing has increased to a great extent. While certain books are great, some are not. Even with great books, only few lend themselves to cinema. The trick is to identify the ones that can be translated on screen and look at the option of making those movies. We are doing that pretty aggressively.

Abhishek, what about Chetan Bhagat's The 3 Mistakes Of My Life appealed to you for you to adapt into a film?

Abhishek Kapoor: When I read The 3 Mistakes Of My Life, I found that I could sink my teeth into the story. The book is about friendship, love, cricket, religion, politics and more than anything else, he has woven a fictional story around two real events that hit Gujarat around 2002 — the earthquake and the Godhra riots. For me, this was a great opportunity to tell a believable story. What attracted me the most were the characters and I focussed on the theme of friendship. Since Rock On!! also had a friendship theme, I was apprehensive about repetition, but while Rock On!! had an urban, rock music backdrop, this is set against the backdrop of a hardcore middle (class) India.

As a director, what were the challenges of translating this book into a film?

AK: We spent two-and-a-half-years working on its screenplay whereas if I had picked up something simpler, I would have churned out a film within a year's time. When I started writing the screenplay, I had to drop a lot from the book which led to a vacuum that had to be filled with new, valuable material. Eventually, the screenplay stands independent of the book, but it is also derivative of it as the characters are the same but with more dimensions.

Siddharth, as a producer, was there a risk in casting new faces — Sushant Singh Rajput, Raj Kumar and Amit Sadh?

SRK: Initially, you do think of casting known names but Kai Po Che is a story of three friends trying to find their way in life where one role is not more significant than the other. Casting known names for such a film becomes difficult as even younger actors are concerned about how they would be projected vis-a-vis the other two. Then, you tend to compensate and mould the script around them which is not something we wanted to do. So we decided to make this film with fresh talent, and it is an incredible cast.

Abhishek, tell us something about the audition process before zeroing in on these three actors?

AK: This film required three main characters who share an equal level of chemistry with each other. To get that combination was almost a dream because today, you can go wrong even while casting one actor. We realised that we had to audition the three actors together because individually they may be great, but they should come across as friends when they are acting together. We went through a lot of auditions and the casting director, Mukesh Chhabra should be given the credit. When we auditioned three of them on a street — it was a good four-five minute shot — they became the characters; it felt like that they had been friends for years whereas in reality, they had just met.

So, Amit, Raj Kumar and Sushant, tell us a little about the characters you play in the film.

Amit Sadh: I play Omi, a priest's son who has grown up doing kirtans, aartis and Surya namaskars. He is a sweetheart for his friends.

Physically, he is very powerful and you feel that he knows everything but mentally, he doesn't have any sense of direction. He tries finding that through his friends and emulates Ishaan (Sushant Singh Rajput), who he is crazy about.

Raj Kumar: I play Govind Patel, a very ordinary, relatable Gujarati boy. He doesn't have any desires in his life except to be a successful businessman. All his energies are targeted only towards making money. He is the mind of the group. There is a love story in the film too...

AS: He never forgets to tell that he gets the girl in the end (laughs).

RK: That is something I am really proud of (laughs).

Sushant Singh Rajput: I play Ishaan, a 23-year-old, very fit cricketer. The most exciting part about my character is that he is full of contradictions. From the outside, he comes across as a very insensitive and impulsive guy, but from the inside, he is very pure, honest and sensitive. Also, he loves his friends like his family.

Why is Amrita Puri, the female lead, missing from the film's promotions?

AK: The film is essentially about three friends, the love angle is a parallel track. Amrita's character is very interesting too. Though she is the only female lead, she plays a girlfriend, sister, daughter as well as a mother to her brother, Ishaan. She has so many shades to her character that we don't need another girl to fulfill any aspect in the film.

Why did you title the film as Kai Po Che?

AK: Kai Po Che may be an out-of-the-box title, but it has a certain energy to it. It is a victory call for all those who fly kites during Sankrant across the country. It translates into 'I cut you' and metaphorically, that happens among the friends too. It is a title that you take home after you see the film.

Tell us about your favourite scenes in the film.

SRK: There are some beautiful sequences in the film — one where the friends are finally making something of their lives and a song actually takes them through the journey. I also love the climax which is a culmination to the build up of the characters, and it is quite different from the book.

AS: At the beginning of the film, there is a scene where you see the three of us fight over something for the first time. The way it was shot was magical and that is one of the best scenes, for me.

SSR: I love a moment in the film where Ishaan and Omi, who've fought, meet after five-six months. They don't say a word, and just hug.

AK: This moment is set against the backdrop of India-Australia test match at Eden Gardens where India had received a follow-on and actually go on to win that match. Cricket is something that really brings this country together and in the moment of India's victory, both of them hug each other.

The scene that Amit was talking about is a fight they have over their business establishment. Within 10 days of the film's shoot, they had gotten into the skin of their characters so well that when they came to shoot for this scene, there was pin drop silence on the set. The scene determines the mood on the set and that day, everyone just whispered on the sets because they were truly tense.

RK: My favourite scenes are the ones between Vidya (Amrita Puri) and me. It is a very unique love story because I am not playing the characters that I played in Love Sex Aur Dhokha or Ragini MMS. I am the shy guy here.

Since this film focusses on your camaraderie, how well did the three of you bond on the sets?

RK: We started bonding from the moment we screen tested together. The personal equation developed much later when we met for coffee, etc. We didn't have to consciously work on getting to know each other, the chemistry was magically present.

Amit and Sushant, coming from television, how challenging was it shooting for a film?

SSR: If you know your craft and enjoy the acting process, medium is not important. While performing on stage, you get a live response but in front of television or film camera, you just play the character.

AS: Adding to what Sushant said, the acting process in television is challenging because there is pressure to finish a certain amount of work in a day. As a result, I made a conscious decision to attempt movies because they are not very strictly time-bound and more emphasis is laid on your character than just finishing the scene. But I am very proud of acting in television industry because it gave me my bread and butter when I came to Mumbai and laid the foundation for me as an actor.

SSR: But TV actors and directors are very efficient. If you have a wonderful story to tell on TV, the technicians are so efficient that they do the pre-production, shooting and post-production in a single day and that requires a lot of effort.

AK: There is a strange myth that television actors cannot work in films. So where will the new talent come from? You can't take a rank newcomer from the streets, cast him in a `30-crore film and put such a big burden on his shoulders. You need to get fresh professionals. Apart from these two, I have also worked with television actress Prachi Desai (for Rock On!!) and I saw that they can enact a five-six page scene at a go. In fact, if I don't call for a 'cut' they will enact the whole script. That comes from training and experience. The notion that pedigree from film stars' homes is the only place to find talent is really choking the film industry.

Why did you decide to have only three songs in the music album of Kai Po Che?

AK: There is no room for more songs. I did try to add a remix, but it felt like I was abusing the song, so I just abandoned the idea.

SRK: We are used to the notion that you should have a minimum of five songs, if you want to make an album. But this film can only take these many songs, anything more than that would have been superfluous.

Finally, Siddharth, what kind of collection are you expecting from this film?

SRK: I am expecting Kai Po Che to break all records. We really made a film from the heart and I believe that there is no way that the film will not touch the heart of every Indian. You have to look at the film in the context of its budget, this film is made on a budget of `12 crore. We are going to release it on as wide a platform as possible.

Transcribed by Krutika Behrawala

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