A few days back, prolific tweeter and hard-core cricket fan Mahek Vyas tweeted about the shocking paucity of cricket movies in Hindi considering how big and wide cricket’s influence is. Outside of Lagaan, there has not been a well-made and memorable Hindi movie where cricket played a central role. It was a thought that resonated with me. It was also very fresh in my mind when I watched Kai Po Che recently.
I don’t watch a lot of movies. I prefer the unscripted unpredictability of sport to movies and I also have the attention span of a two-year old. So here below are my thoughts on Kai Po Che as a cricket fan. This is not a movie review. It is a review of the cricket embedded in what I thought was a very well-made and memorable movie.
Kai Po Che is based in Gujarat circa 2000-2001. The mood of the people from that time is captured appropriately. So is the cricket of the time.
There is a scene in the movie where three friends who are slowly drifting away from each other due to divergent views on society, politics, religion run incoherently towards a mad embrace because India had just beaten Australia in Kolkata. To me, that scene captured the meaning of cricket in India to India today. It is realistic. It is part of the India I grew up in and it is a part of every Indian gathering I am a part of. There is a belief that lies underneath a lot of us that whatever our differences and principles, however little we know of each other, a quick cricket conversation is the strongest social signalling device. I have exchanged several nods and smiles at work with folks who get up out of their cubes at the exact same moment when we are done clicking REFRESH on the browsers in our cubes.
I was in India in March of 2001. I remember how hopeless everything looked on the evening of March 12 2001. Indian cricket looked like it would never recover from a match-fixing scandal of a year earlier and Australia looked unconquerable. What transpired the next three days went way beyond cricket. A fan-base gained new belief and strength and one that would get them thru the next 50 years. Even today in the most hopeless of situations, a lot of us flashback and think “We came back from a lot worse in Kolkata.”
The movie does a great job of capturing that moment in time thru its protagonists. To me that is a very hard thing to do and I am so glad that Chetan Bhagat and Abhishek Kapoor captured that cricket moment in time in an accurate and realistic manner. I am sure it must have been tempting to throw a glamorized fictional situation in that spot.
Cricket in India is also about millions of aspirational kids, controversial selections and the intrusion of politics at every level. Cricket in India is about parental objections. Cricket in India is about preferring the on-side to the off-side. Cricket in India is about constantly needing more bats and balls than affordable or available.
Kai Po Che captures this all and integrates it seamlessly in to a story about three young Indians and their day-to-day challenges in Gujarat. Kai Po Che is the best Hindi cricket movie I have seen yet. The cricket fan in me loved it.
Now if you will excuse me I have to go attend to my goosebumps from watching the highlights from the Kolkata test in 2001 for the 2001’th time…..