New Delhi: There's a moment in Abhishek Kapoor's 'Kai Po Che' when it's two leading men Ishaan and Omi, delirious with joy at India winning a Test match they had given up for dead, rush towards each other and stop for a fraction of a second to gauge if a hug would be appropriate after their massive quarrel.
There are many moments of pure male bonding - refreshingly subtle - in 'Kai Po Che ' that pull their weight in gold. There is the lovely Amrita Puri of course who romances one of the three, but her track doesn't take the attention away from the film's main selling point - the beautifully complex and boringly normal relationship between the three men.
Kapoor called them 'brothers for life'. They are that and more, often lovingly shielding each other from blows that life rain on them, without once letting the audience feel the absence of a major female star and leaving many wet eyes in the end. The last time I saw this kind of brotherhood in mainstream Bollywood was in Dil Chahta Hai, a slick coming-of-age story where the three friends complete each others sentence.
Replace the designer couch, the leather upholstery, the foreign brands and the urban smooth talk with middle-class homes in cramped bylanes of Gujarat, and Kai Po Che's Omi, Ishaan and Govind retain the heart of Sid, Aakash and Sameer. The street smart wastrel, the introvert and the nerdy goof tied by a bond that goes much deeper than blood.
It's only when Govind starts dating Ishaan's sister that you realize you haven't really missed having a heroine around. Actually no woman can substitute for the camaraderie that these three share. They hug, repeatedly, and cry unashamedly. They lock up their shop and rush to stand behind a friend who's lost his parents during the fire in the Sabarmati Express.
While watching the film I realized how smart it was of Kapoor to not alter the narration in the source material - Chetan Bhagat's 'The 3 Mistakes of My Life' - and give in to the temptation of introducing female leads to cater to a mainstream audience. How distracting that would have been.
Whether they take a running dive into water or help fulfill each others dream, you know you are seeing friendship at it's purest form in Kai Po Che. I'm glad the makers also decided to sandpaper the book's over-the-top climax, which would have scratched an emotional itch maybe, but would not have the poignancy of the film's ending.
A parting remark to the industry professionals - take your good writers seriously and award them amply - it takes a lot of work to turn around an average story to something beautifully fluid and impart dignity and poignancy to it.