It’s been a dream weekend for Kai Po Che!. The not-so-big film with a huge heart has made it big at the box office, notching up Rs 18.10 crore in the first three days. Even critically, Kai Po Che! has been received positively, making stars out of Rajkumar Yadav, Sushant Singh Rajput and Amit Sadh. t2 puts director Abhishek Kapoor in the hot seat about his friendship film…
Critical acclaim, great audience feedback and huge box-office figures. You must be on top of the world…
Well, I am overwhelmed… I really don’t know how to react. It’s one of those films where the response has been universally positive. Not only in India, even overseas the film has done exceptionally well even though it didn’t have big names in the cast. Critics have loved it… the audience is loving it. It’s a dream run. Though it’s earned Rs 18-plus crore in the first three days itself, my eye was never on the box office. I always wanted the audience to love Kai Po Che! more than they had loved Rock On!!. Everyone has loved it unanimously... more than Rock On!! and that’s my biggest victory.
But wasn’t the first half a little slow, with too much time spent on details of the three friends’ lives?
Even Rock On!! had a similar pace. An over-rushed screenplay is something that I have never liked. A common practice in our films is ‘Jaldi jaldi karo taaki public bore na ho jaaye!’ This baffles the audience with nothing. But if you want to tell something substantial through your film, take a little time for the build-up. I know Kai Po Che! has a slightly slow pace, but it’s not a boring film. I take time to tell my stories and I believe that the pace of the second half more than makes up for the time spent on detailing in the first half.
Haven’t people told you that they found the first half slow?
Some have definitely told me that they found it a little slow, but that’s not something I am concerned about.
Was the decision to move away from The 3 Mistakes of my Life (Chetan Bhagat’s book on which the film is based) to kill Sushant Singh Rajput’s Ishaan taken because the character had the maximum emotional pull?
Yes, it was very, very deliberate. Ishaan is the purest soul… the most innocent thing in the film. He stands for someone who is selfless and untainted by the world. By killing him, I wanted the audience to feel what those afflicted by the Gujarat riots must have felt when they lost so many of their innocent sons.
You have also deliberately glossed over the Gujarat riots, unlike films like Parzania and Firaaq…
I did, because my film is not about the riots… it’s essentially a story of three friends. Also, I don’t think viewers want to see the Gujarat riots because, like you said, it’s been shown in a couple of other films… it has been shown on television too. Kai Po Che! was never about the brutality of the riots… it was always about the innocence of Govind, Ishaan and Omi. If I had concentrated too much on the riots, it would have stripped the film of its innocence.
Given how popular the soundtrack has become, don’t you think Amit Trivedi was underutilised?
Amit Trivedi’s music is definitely one of the selling points of Kai Po Che!. He’s given us three wonderful songs that really carry forward the film. I felt that the songs we had were perfect for the setting and even one more would have been a little too much. I couldn’t have had more songs because the film is huge… there was so much material, so much to tell. It was a two-hour four-minute film and I had to pack in so much. And honestly, why would I have more songs? I am in the business of making movies, not music albums!
Wasn’t Kai Po Che! trying to be too many things at the same time — a friendship film to a love story, a social commentary to a disaster movie?
Well, even if it is, I think we’ve managed it quite well! (Laughs) Honestly, it’s based on the book and we had to include most threads present in it. However, I have just kept the essence of The 3 Mistakes of my Life and the feel of the characters, but the second half is quite different from the book. I didn’t feel the necessity to stick to the book; from the beginning I was quite sure that the film had to emerge as an independent entity. I did whatever I thought was right.
Vidya, played by Amrita Puri, is far more feisty in the book..
Vidya didn’t have to be exactly like the one in the book. I think Amrita has done a wonderful job in keeping that balance between being feisty and coming across as someone who cares and can be depended on. I always wanted the Govind-Vidya love story to be a cute and simple one… something that every young couple in love could identify with. For that, Vidya had to be exactly the way Amrita has played her in the film.
Looking back, is there anything about the film that you would want to change?
Nothing. I took my time… I took two years to write the screenplay. I knew how I wanted to make the film and I have made it exactly the way I wanted to. And thankfully, people are loving it!