Monday, 18 March 2013

Pray, what have you 'cut'? Kai Po Che

Despite the Chetan Bhagat tag attached, which I am admittedly much-biased against, I braved Kai Po Che. Having heard that the film is better than the book (which might be the case, i cannot say, not having read it), i was a bit encouraged in the endeavour. For others who might be tempted to follow suit, here's a short review.

The movie is nothing more than a tepid, much-hammered tale of masculine bonding between three personality stereotypes, as if we haven't had enough of that already (Dil Chahta Hai, 3 idiots, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, et al). What irks more is the attempt to portray this against a background of factual events, trying to score a few more feel-good points. 

The problem is this remains just that, a convenient background to flirt with without giving it its due. So the Gujarat riots become a small local affair between two local politicians and neighbourhoods. The Godhra incident is reported on tv by only one news channel, Headlines Today, which promptly announces the same day that the train was stopped by a group at Godhra and systematically burnt. Of course it flies in the face of facts, and my personal memory reminds me that there was substantial confusion at this point about what had actually happened in Godhra, with a healthy amount of dissent between different print and tv media. That one short clip pretty much sends across the message that this is a quid pro quo revenge plot going on, almost 'justifiable', it whispers. Only men are shown as being slaughtered, the brutalities on women and children eased out of our soft-hearted bourgeois consciousness!

Even if one could squirm through this simplistic and rather dangerous narrative, can we ignore the heady mix of cricket and our ambitious upwardly-mobile consumerist youth. The only reason the hot-headed hero of the trio cares for the scrawny Muslim kid seems to be his talent at batting, unmoored by any further sympathy and understanding than an attempt to realize his own unfulfilled dreams as a cricketer through the boy. He displays no compunctions when they borrow money from the right-wing organization, too drowned in his dream for upgrading the dingy shop to a mall store with a prime location and a chic glass-fronted display window. He may attempt to gain aid for the Muslim victims of the 2001 earthquake from the right-wing party, but one cannot quite ignore the systemic participation in the Gujarat Shining campaign Modi so successfully spearheads. Only the rather cautious and business-minded third of the trio seems to be worried about mixing business with politics, but soon thumps his friend's back and encourages him in 'party-work' if the party head is ready to ignore their pending loans (also, whatever happened to good-ole insurance money when the shop is destroyed by earthquake?)

There is a redeeming point, the sole but bold female character who flirts and self-assuredly seduces the rather non-glamourous protagonist, and keeps any anxieties about her 'good-girl's honour' at bay. But this is too little compared to the rest. The crowning moment is the debut of the Muslim boy as a national cricketer, yes, that solves it all. A tactical evasion of serious issues and formulaic tale of sensitive individual over callous society can only do so much, take us to the convenient and lulling land of  the 'feel good'  commonsensical.

Last word, this is textbook case of the proverbial dangers of limited knowledge! And a question, what has this movie 'cut', pray tell (Kai po che translates as 'I have cut')?

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