As they say, nothing unites India as much as cricket and Bollywood and when you get the two most popular things together – you know you have a winner in hand. Filmmaker Kabir Khan has always been known for his deft handling of important subjects like cross-border terrorism and turning it into entertaining, wholesome blockbusters. His latest ’83’ documents India’s historic win at the Cricket World Cup in 1983. A team that was considered to go back home after the prelim matches, stunned the world as it lifted the first world cup for the country.
The plot is known to all cricket buffs all too well. India played reigning champions West Indies team at World Cup 1983 in the UK. No one, including members of the cricket board in India and some of the players, believed that the team had a chance to win the coveted cup. But as the team went on to win the initial matches, hopes of not just the team but of Indians across the world rose.
The beauty of ’83 lies in the little anecdotes on the players that it beautifully highlighted. How the ‘mad’ captain Kapil Dev(Ranveer Singh) struggled with his English, tense moments with some of his team members, Gavaskar’s(Tahir Raj Bhasin) little tips on the field, Srikanth and other player’s funny banter in the locker room, Balvinder Sandhu’s(Ammy Virk) insecurity about not being an engineer or doctor but a bowler- all these and more give an insight into the legendary team whose members are considered living legends now. The film highlights why winning the trophy was important- to create an identity in a game that was never ours, to bring glory to the nation in a country that had for years ruled over India. Spruced with actual footage and images of the championship, the film is able to connect the actors to the parts they play on screen.
Written by Khan, Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan and Vasan Bala, ’83’ has a detailed screenplay and tries to incorporate not just how the cricketers played on the field but also throws light on the political atmosphere of the time where the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi sought to use India’s entry to semi-finals to defuse a possible communal riot in a town in northern India.
Khan’s film could have gone either way. Making a film on a subject that is still well-etched on everyone’s memory and a championship on which a lot of material is already available is slightly tricky. The actors could have easily hammed and the film could have easily made a caricature on the match. But fortunately, despite working on a topic that is known by many in the country, ’83’ makes for a thrilling watch.
It helps that it is headlined by the versatile Ranveer Singh who picks up Kapil Dev’s mannerisms, his broken English and even his Natraj shot accurately. Sing always manages to slip well into the characters he plays onscreen. ’83’ is no exception. Singh executes the role of Kapil Dev, the slightly shy but determined captain of the Indian Cricket team, well.
While the film concentrates most on Singh’s character, there are other actors too who stood out for their performance. Tamil actor Jiva plays Kris Srikanth with absolute ease. It is so much fun to watch the actor play the maverick Srikanth so accurately on screen. The other actor who stands out for his performance is actor Amy Wark who plays cricketer Balvinder Sandhu.
Pankaj Tripathi as team manager PR Man Singh and Deepika Padukone as Romi Dev too are well cast and leave a lasting impression. It’s great to see Deepika and Ranveer playing a regular married couple, sans royalty, wars and period drama (if you know what I mean).
Certain scenes are meta. Neena Gupta, who plays Kapil Dev’s mother cheers watching her on-screen son take Sir Viv Richard’s wicket. Gupta and Rcihcards were a couple in the 1980s and share daughter, Masaba Gupta. Then Mohinder Amarnath plays his father Lala Amarnath on-screen with Saqib Saleem taking on his role. A portion as the older Amarnath looks at a TV screen cheering his younger self.
At 2hr 45 minutes, the film can be a bit of a stretch. It also tends to focus mostly on Kapil Dev (the cricketer is reportedly one of the co-producers of the film) and perhaps it would have been great to know more about the other cricketers in greater detail.
These flaws can easily be overlooked as ’83’ taps on the emotions of a country that is always hungry for such thrilling wins. It also gives a slice of history to a generation that has grown up on Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and the recent Dhoni and Kohli.
’83’ comes at a time when the Omicron variant has once again spread gloom in the country. There is no better way to forget pandemic woes than to watch a moment in Indian cricket history and celebrate the legends. The win gave birth to India’s obsession with cricket and ’83’ will make you celebrate our heroes once again.
’83’ releases in theatres on December 24.