Three friends from India band together to open a cricket training academy. 

Cricket drama scores convincingly.

A hallmark of a well-made film is the way it can make you care about things you really care little about. Fascinated by cricket or political rivalry between Hindus and Muslims in regional India? Then Kai Po Che is the film for you. More importantly, if you are not interested in cricket, religion or politics, Kai Po Che is also the film for you, because it makes those subjects equally compelling.

The performances are strong throughout

Abhishek Kapoor’s film expertly tells the story of three enterprising friends (well, two enterprising, one ya tad lazy) who share an ambition to open a sports equipment store in their Ahmedabad neighbourhood. The brains of the collective entrepreneurial vision is straight-laced, mathematically minded Govi (Rajkumar Yadav). Govi’s friend Omi (Amit Sadh) is the one who manages to – courtesy of a connection with a local politician, Bitto (Manav Kaul) – secure the store’s initial bankroll. The energy and the charisma of their enterprise is embodied in inherently idle and frequently explosive Ishaan (handsome newcomer Sushant Singh Rajput) who possesses the Earth’s shortest fuse and a keen eye for sporting talent.

While Ishaan loses the group more opportunities than he secures, he’s energised when he discovers a young Muslim boy (the intense but likeable teen, Digivijay Deshmukh) who can whack any ball bowled his way for sixes and fours. On the downside, the Muslim boy’s father is a political opponent of the trio’s central investor Bitto. As Ishaan throws his energies into coaching, Omi finds himself increasingly obliged to immerse himself in Bitto’s zealous political campaigns.

While an inevitable wedge forms between Omi and Ishaan, Govi balances the store’s books, and tutors Ishaan’s sister Vidya (Amrita Puri), whose interest in her teacher goes beyond her maths texts. Despite their significant age difference and Govi’s fear that a romance with Vidya might incite Ishaan’s temper, Vidya completes her seduction, adding extra tensions.

A couple of musical montages slow the film down; though the only dancing sequence – Vidya and Govi’s date – actually keeps the plot moving. On the whole, director Kapoor manages to keep the tangled events of the story fathomable and flowing. Thanks to the skill of his three co-writers (including the source material’s novelist, Chetan Bhagat), all the narrative threads intertwine naturally around real life events such as earthquakes, a significant India vs. Australia cricket match, and the 2002 Godhra riots, so the film feels authentic with neither the melodrama or the historical events diminished by the presence of the other.

The performances are strong throughout, but both Yadav and Rajput particularly impress, as they imbue their potentially clichéd roles of egghead accountant and hot-headed control freak with true depth.

Upholding the tradition of Indian films keeping their original titles worldwide (Isn’t this marketing suicide?), Kai Po Che is a Gujarati call of triumph briefly used in a scene depicting a kite-flying competition. And talking of suicidal marketing, releasing a week before the Australian cricket romantic comedy Save Your Legs! will further work against any crossover potential, but at least will make an interesting discussion point for film buffs who can’t get enough India or cricket in their lives.