Set in Ahmedabad, the story revolves around three friends, Ishaan (Sushant Singh Rajput), Omi (Amit Sadh) and Govind (Rajkummar Rao), who want to start their own sports shop and sports academy; the film also revolves around the 2001 Gujarat earthquake and Godhra train burning. The film tracks their deep friendship, and innocence tarnished by religious politics and communal hatred. Kai Po Che! had a world premiere at the 63rd Berlin International Film Festival on 13 February 2013 where it was the first ever Indian film to feature in the World Panorama section. Kai Po Che! released worldwide on 22 February 2013 and met with critical acclaim among Indian reviewers, but mixed reviews internationally.
Ishaan "Ish" Bhatt (Sushant Singh Rajput) is an ex district level cricketer who is a victim of politics in the cricketing selection fraternity, Omkar "Omi" Shastri (Amit Sadh) is the nephew of a Hindu politician (Bittu) who funds their business and Govind "Govi" Patel (Rajkumar Rao) is a geek with a penchant for business and numbers. Together they open a sports shop and an academy to train and promote talented budding cricketers. After toiling hard, they succeed in establishing it as a center for cricket among the local youth and start to incur profits.
Ishaan requests Govind to teach his sister Vidya (Amrita Puri) mathematics as her exams are coming up. Govind is reluctant at first but agrees eventually. Vidya and Govind gradually fall in love with each other and secretly begin a physical relationship. Omi discovers the same and warns Govind of the consequences, as Ishaan is very protective of his sister.
The three friends spot a budding cricketing talent in a local boy, Ali (Digvijay Deshmukh), who has a rare talent, and Ishaan starts training him vigorously. Govind is ambitious and wants to expand the budding business by opening a shop in a mall being constructed in Navrangpura, an upcoming part of the city. With financial help coming from Omi's maternal uncle, Bittu (Manav Kaul), the trio secure the deal and set up shop in the mall. Disaster strikes when a destructive earthquake hits Gujarat and the mall is destroyed. Govind is shattered as the amount of money they invested was very large and they are now loaded with a huge debt. Omi is reluctantly forced to work for his maternal Uncle's right-wing party due to the money they owe him.
When relief camps of Omi's uncle's party declines to give Muslims shelter in troubled times, Ishaan and Omi quarrel over their politico-religious outlook and temporarily break off their friendship. They again reunite after India's surprise win in the test match against Australia. Omi gets busy with religious politics and joins Bittu's party. Ishaan and Govind, meanwhile, are busy with Ali and Vidya respectively. Tension arises in the political sphere when Bittu loses the elections in his constituency to his opponent. As a part of their campaigning, Bittu sends pilgrims (kar sevaks) to Ayodhya to the Ram Temple. Omi's parents were also among them. On the returning day, the shocking news of the Godhra train massacre reaches the people. Omi is shattered but Bittu convinces him to take revenge on the murderers of his parents.
Ishaan and Govind hide Ali, fearing communal riots. As expected, the violence starts by sunset, and the mob led by Bittu storms into the Muslim locality, killing each and every Muslim in sight. A fight ensues between Ali's father (Asif Basra) and Bittu. Ali's father stabs Bittu in defense and rushes to save Ali and take shelter in their attic. Omi, enraged at the death of his uncle Bittu, follows him with a gun. Meanwhile, Ishaan comes to know about Vidya and Govind's relationship, when he reads Vidya's text message in Govind's mobile phone about her periods. Enraged, he starts thrashing Govind while Omi enters the premises with a gun in hand, desperate to find and kill Ali and his father. Ishaan and Govind break their own fighting and try to stop Omi as he desperately searches for Ali and his father. Omi finally aims and shoots at Ali. Ishaan in a bid to save Ali takes the bullet himself and consequently dies.
The film then goes back to where it started, with Omi being released from prison ten years later. Govind and Vidya are married and have a son, whom they have named Ishaan (Ishaan Bhagat, Chetan Bhagat's son) after the late Ishaan. The film ends with a now grown up Ali debuting for the Indian cricket team against Australia. He plays his first shot by hitting the ball to the boundary with a Cover drive just like his "Ishaan bhaiya" had taught him.Sushant Singh Rajput as Ishaan BhattAmit Sadh as Omkar Shastri aka OmiRajkummar Rao as Govind PatelAmrita Puri as Vidya BhattDigvijay Deshmukh as AliAsif Basra as Ali's fatherManav Kaul as Bittu MamaTahir Raj Bhasin as Ali (adult)Ishaan Bhagat as Ishaan PatelDinesh Kumar as JohnAshish Kakkad as VishwasAjay Jadeja as cricket commentator (cameo role)Gaurav Kapur as cricket commentatorAtheeq Samad & Jazeer as Guest Appearance
Filming began in Vadnagar in Mehsana district of Gujarat along majority of scenes canned in old Ahmedabad and continued further in Porbandar, Diu. A scene featuring the trio was shot at Hatkeshwar Mahadev temple. One of the songs Meethi Boliyan was exclusively shot around Daman and Diu. Reportedly, Sushant Singh Rajput had to undergo four months cricket training under two coaches to fit into the book adapted character of 'Ishaan'. A cricket match sequence was shot at the Sabarmati Railway stadium sabarmati in Ahmedabad. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has granted the director permission to use footage from a historic India–Australia Kolkata test match from 2001 in Kai Po Che!. Director Abhishek Kapoor has admitted that the leading Bollywood stars didn't want to be a part of the film. Former cricketer Ajay Jadeja has been roped in for a special appearance in this film.
Chetan Bhagat, whose book is adapted for the screen, first revealed the title of the film. Subsequently, a short contest was announced by him on Twitter to create the awareness about the film and its title.
The director had a four-city promotional strategy. There were plans of bonding with friends in four cities and hanging out with them. Sushant Singh Rajput was to host a private screening of Kai Po Che! in his hometown of Patna for his childhood friends. On 18 February 2013, a star-studded premiere was organised in Cinemax, Versova, Mumbai.
Actors like Aamir Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Huma Qureshi, Arshad Warsi praised the film.
The music was composed by Amit Trivedi. Lyrics were penned by Swanand Kirkire and Shruti Pathak (Gujarati lyrics in Shubhaarambh), while the background music has been scored by Hitesh Sonik.
Kai Po Che! release date was confirmed as 22 February 2013. The film was released on 1000 screens in India. Kai Po Che!'s theatrical trailer was released along with Dabangg 2. The first trailer of this movie was released on YouTube on 20 December 2012. The 3 Mistakes of My Life book cover will be relaunched with the poster of Kai Po che!. Kai Po Che! received 'U' certificate from the Censor Board prior to its release without any cuts.
The film was critically acclaimed by Indian critics but was met with a rather mixed reception from critics overseas. Sukanya Verma for Rediff.com gave 4/5 stars and says Abhishek Kapoor's clarity of vision makes Kai Po Che!, the adaptation of a mediocre novel, so irresistible. Taran Adarsh of Bollywood Hungama gave it 4 out of 5 and stated that the film is brimming with solid content. Meena Iyer of The Times of India gave it 4 out of 5 stars saying, "Kai Po Che! is very likeable. Between tears, you find yourself smiling, because it's the story of friendship and human triumph above all else." Resham Sengar of Zee News gave 4/5 stars stating, "The magic of the film lies in its details!" Saibal Chatterjee of NDTV gave 3.5 stars saying, "Kai Po Che! is a competently crafted, well acted and consistently engaging drama that makes its point without sinking into preachy paroxysms". Shubhra Gupta of Indian Express gave 3.5/5 stars adding, "Abhishek Kapoor uses Kai Po Che! as an apt metaphor and crafts a lovely, emotive film on abiding friendship and the values that make life worth living." India Today gave 3.5 stars.
Khalid Mohamed of Deccan Chronicle gave 3 out of 5 stars and stated that it is a good film. Deccan Herald stated that it is a warm film while Live Mint said that Kai Po Che! is a well-crafted entertainer. Anupama Chopra of The Hindustan Times gave the movie 4 out of 5 stars saying that "Kai Po Che! is Gujarati for "I've cut". It is used as a cry of victory in kite-flying contests. Here victory is hard-earned and tinged with tears and regret. But it's also deeply satisfying." Rajeev Masand of IBN Live gave the movie 4/5 stars saying that "It's only February, but one of the year's best films has arrived". The Hindu stated that the film is breathless.
The film is rated 64% 'fresh' on the review site Rotten Tomatoes. Critic Aaron Hillis of The Village Voice gave a negative review, stating that "The dramatic stakes are so puny that every obstacle can be overcome with a simple work-it-out montage, a cheap device prevalent enough in this movie to start a drinking game." Rachel Saltz of the New York Times wrote that the film "Mixes, not quite successfully, traditional Bollywood storytelling with something less conventional." Kate Taylor of the Globe and Mail wrote that the film "might be the next Bend It Like Beckham – if it did not have the sensibilities of the next Dr. Zhivago." Bruce Demara of the Toronto Star gave the a positive review of film 3.5 out of 4 stars. Through starting by criticizing the lengthy amount of Cricket portrayed in the film (which he describes as "a game that remains mystifying to North American audiences"), this aspect does not prevent Bruce from giving a Kai Po Che! a favorable review. He first praises the acting as what "makes film succeed — and occasionally soar", further describing it as "finely etched performances" with a "very fine cast." He further compliments the cinematography, stating that it shows "an India of contrasts, both sun-baked rural landscapes and chaotic urban scenes." He also states that the cinematography had "fine attention to detail" that provides the film "an air of authenticity." He the states that despite the film being 2 hour, the audience is "soon engaged and deeply invested in" it. He concludes his review by stating that even audiences with little knowledge of recent Indian history or the complexities of cricket "are going to find Kai Po Che a poignant and satisfying experience." Robert Abele of the Los Angeles Times gave it a positive review, criticizing the film for its grimness and lack of subtlety, but complimenting the performances as "enjoyably boisterous", as well as complimenting the director Abhishek Kapoor for refusing to "linger on clichés for too long." Deborah Young of the Hollywood Reporter complimented the film for leaving the traditional Bollywood formula, by "boldly plunge[ing] into two major historical events: the 2001 earthquake that killed 18,000 people and... the violent Hindu-Muslim clashes of 2002." She also states that the Hindu-Muslim riot scene and subsequent reconciliation transforms the film into a "powerful drama" that "allows audiences to leave the theater with a tear in the eye". She later compliments the actors as "well cast" and praises the films cinematography. Priya Joshi of the Digital Spy gave the film 4 out of 5 stars, describing the film as an "intimate story of friendship, ambition, love, loss and redemption. She further praises the film's storytelling, scripting, and cinematography as "cornerstones to this film", while complimenting the acting and characterization. She also praised the film's storyline, describing the tension of the rising action as a " shattering crescendo" by the climax. Her concluding message further commends the film: stating "thought-provoking, moving and ultimately heart-warming, Kai Po Che! is what great cinema is made of." Russell Edwards of Special Broadcasting Service gave the film 3.5 out of 4 stars, introducing the film as "a hallmark of a well-made film is the way it can make you care about things you really care little about." He compliments the film for interlacing the film's narrative threads with real events, and concludes by stating the acting as "strong throughout." Daniel Eagan of the Film Journal International complimented the film, praising its authenticity by mentioning that it had moved "beyond Bollywood stereotypes to a new style of Indian cinema", further stating that the film "could attract an audience outside India." He praised the use of real situations mixed with the film's narrative, particularly complimenting the film's focusing on the character development during the events rather than overuse of special effects. He appreciated the films use of "universal themes", and praised the way India was portrayed; describing this narrative on India as "on brink of the future, and yet still divided by wealth and poverty, by class and religion." He likewise admired the acting of the film, stating that all of the main characters "give strong performances." He completes his review by stating "this is a film whose scope, detail and appealing characters deserve a wide audience."
Kai Po Che! opened with a collection of ₹42.5 million (US$660,000) on day one with limited release where it did good business in metro cities especially. After the opening day, the film showed very good growth, grossing ₹62.5 million (US$970,000) and ₹75 million (US$1.2 million) on its second and third days respectively to make a collection of around ₹183 million (US$2.9 million) in its first weekend. It grossed ₹295 million (US$4.6 million) after its first week. The film held well despite some new releases and collected around ₹82.5 million (US$1.3 million) in its second weekend. It grossed ₹110 million (US$1.7 million) in second and ₹48.3 million (US$750,000) in its third week. The final domestic collections of the film are ₹480 million (US$7.5 million).
After its successful run in domestic market, the film has done well overseas with a business of around $2.25 million in 17 days. Final overseas collection was US$2.325 million.