A moment from Kai Po Che!
Four years after Rock On!!, Abhishek Kapoor is all set to cry out Kai Po Che! (which means “I have cut” in Gujarati.) A t2 chat with the actor-turned-director on his February 22 release, the trailer of which is a YouTube sensation…
There has been immense interest around Kai Po Che!. How challenging was it to translate Chetan Bhagat’s 3 Mistakes of My Life to film?
A book can be written in any direction, you can adopt different trajectories, but when you are making a film from a book, you have to pick up any one thread and make it your driving force, be it the love story or be it the cricket, or be it the politics. I feel this is Chetan’s biggest book… the story is of such scale and depth that it was quite a challenge streamlining it into a screenplay.
Friendship (between Ishaan, Govind and Omi) forms the heart of the film but we really didn’t want to leave out the other aspects. There are so many layers to the book and to fit it into a screenplay was very tough. We had to create the right setting for it and to flow it the way we wanted it was quite a challenge and took us a really long time.
To add to that, we had to shoot in Gujarat in 50-degree heat with so much crowd every day… phew! It’s a big film and to execute it all was very tough. It’s not the kind of film that you shoot in pretty locations and great weather. It was a challenging set-up.
A moment from Kai Po Che!
Why did you decide to make 3 Mistakes of My Life into a film?
Chetan called me... I read the book and found great potential in it to be a film. I thought there was enough scope for me to add cinematic style to the story and interpret it in my own way. Not every book should be made into a film but this one is special. I found the three boys very fascinating.
To what extent have you stayed true to the book?
It’s based on the book, but there are certain things that I have added to the story, to the characters and the set-up. If you have read the book, you would know what additions and contributions have been made. I would say that it’s 50-50.
How much did Chetan contribute creatively to Kai Po Che!?
It’s his book and to convert it into a screenplay, I sat with Chetan for a while and we bounced off ideas. But finally, we wrote the screenplay ourselves. He didn’t have to come to the set because this is not his film.
Like you said, this is a story about love, politics and cricket and also has the backdrop of the Gujarat riots. Which was the most difficult bit to film?
I can’t pick one thing… to piece everything together in a screenplay was tough. The sheer scale of the film was a challenge.
How did you zero in on TV actors Sushant Singh Rajput, Amit Sadh and Rajkumar Yadav (last seen as Aamir Khan’s junior in Talaash) for the roles of Ishaan, Govind and Omi?
I auditioned all three of them together. My casting director Mukesh Chhabra is fabulous at his job and we were discussing how to cast for this film because it has some very unique characters, enhanced by the dynamics and the relationships that they share. I was sure that this had to be a story of three friends — I didn’t want one hero and two flunkies! I was lucky that I got all three of them in the first audition itself.
Rock On!! was based on friendship and so is Kai Po Che!...
The only similarity between Rock On!! and Kai Po Che! is that both are stories of friendship. That apart, both are set in different milieus and social strata and the dynamics between the characters in each film is very different. Rock On!! was about a group of friends with a rock band in an urban setting; this is the heartland of India. Rock On!! wasn’t a story of India’s youth, it was about unfulfilled dreams and aspirations. Kai Po Che! is a wider story which I am sure will connect with a far bigger audience. Making the sequel to Rock On!! (scheduled to start later this year) would have been the easiest thing for me to do, but I wanted to make Kai Po Che! first.
The last Chetan Bhagat book (Five Point Someone) was made into 3 Idiots and became the biggest Bolly blockbuster ever. Does that put pressure on you?
Not at all. I am happy in my creative space and I don’t think I should compete with anyone else’s work. I concentrated on making the film as best as I could and that alone was the biggest challenge for me.
Does the actor in you (the leading man in Uff! Yeh Mohabbat and Shikar) contribute to you the director?
It’s just an experience that I have had on a film set. But that is not something that I bring to my sets as a director. As a director, I pick actors who I feel have potential. On set, it’s not about me telling them what to do, but them showing me what they are capable of bringing to their characters.
A compelling story of three friends — each with different goals and priorities in life but bound together by a unique thread — against the backdrop of the 2002 Gujarat riots. Published in 2008, 3 Mistakes of My Life is the third best-selling Chetan Bhagat book after Five Point Someone and One Night @ The Call Center.
While Five Point Someone became Aamir Khan’s 3 Idiots, directed by Rajkumar Hirani, One Night @ The Call Center found expression in the forgettable Hello, helmed by former actor Atul Agnihotri.
The next Bollywood chapter for Chetan will be Karan Johar producing a film based on 2 States, starring Arjun Kapoor and Alia Bhatt.
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