Director: Kabir Khan
Cast: Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Pankaj Tripathi, Jiiva, Saqib Saleem, Jatin Sarna, Chirag Patil, Dinker Sharma, Nishant Dahiya, Harrdy Sandhu, Sahil Khattar, Ammy Virk, Neena Gupta and Boman Irani
Cinema and cricket are not just India’s two prime time passions but probably its biggest unifiers too. Kabir Khan brings the two threads together in his much awaited 83 and creates a winner. As the triumphant slice of cricket history when India won the 1983 Cricket World Cup (on June 25, 1983) comes alive on larger than life screen his intentions are crystal clear; to make our eyes brim with tears of joy.
Expectedly, the narrative and treatment are suffused with patriotism and loads and loads of cricket. Never mind that there is an attempt to amp up the proceedings with sprinkling of glamour. But roping in beautiful Deepika Padukone, ravishing as ever, as Kapil Dev’s wife Romi, is only an aside. If the real star of real cricket of that historic proud moment when India clocked its first World Cup victory was Kapil
Dev, the Indian Cricket Team captain, on screen too it’s him.
Ranveer Singh plays him almost to perfection, getting his body language, his mannerisms, his cricketing stance and his tooti footi angrezi evident in one-liners beginning with “people says” right.
The superstar in the ever effusive Ranveer takes a backseat. What you see is a real life Kapil, who just wanted to win sans homilies and against all odds. Cricket fans are aware that the odds that he beat were insurmountable. The director takes enough time and dramatises enough scenes to impress upon how Indians were the underdogs. So much so that no passes were made for their entry at Lord’s ground in England which is where the finals of the World Cup took place. And history was made.
How and when, for the uninitiated the details are laid out, if not ball by ball, certainly match by match. From India’s two successive wins to its drubbing in the next two to that great game played by Kapil (unbeaten 175) when India was down at 17 for 5 against Zimbabwe, much unfurls in this 162-minute sports drama.
Though Ranveer as Kapil shines, the best part is; it isn’t about Kapil alone. The other members of the team get due footage and space. Jiiva as Krishnamachari Srikkanth truly has his moment and actors like Saqib Saleem (playing Mohinder Amarnath), Jatin Sarna (Yashpal Sharma) and our very own Punjabi stars Ammy Virk (Balwinder Sandhu) and Harrdy Sandhu (Madan Lal) make a visible impact. Ammy stands apart and it is heartening that he gets enough screen time. Another star from City Beautiful Wamiqa Gabbi’s part as
Madan Lal’s wife might be rather small but she looks fetching. And then there are gifted actors Boman Irani (Farokh Engineer) and Pankaj Tripathi energizing the narrative. Tripathi as PR Man Singh, manager of the team, brings in necessary dash of chutzpah and humour. The other stars of the international cricket, the invincible bowlers of West Indies (reigning and two time champions at that time) are duly introduced with real and reel footage which is anyway used judiciously in the film.
Khan resists the temptation of laying it too thick with archival material. Instead he chooses to recreate the period with directorial touches and flourishes. We get to see Kapil Dev and Mohinder Amarnath as they are today. Amarnath appears in a short cameo playing his father Lala Amarnath and Kapil is seen in the stands and later at the end of the film, recalling the victory day.
Sure, the overall atmospherics is in no way subtle rather is exceedingly jubilant. Those of us who have followed Khan’s film graph know too well how drama, even melodrama (remember Bajrangi Bhaijaan) is his wont. But we also know he rarely fails to make an emotional connect. So, here too we watch the film through a film of tears. Songs, especially Lehra Do (music by Pritam), further enhance the all pervading sentimental mood. One does wish Khan and his team of writers, including Sanjay Singh Chauhan, were more candid while recounting behind the scenes of one of the greatest cricketing games ever played. There is a fleeting run in with Sunil Gavaskar (Tahir Raj Bhasin) though. But the tone is largely amiable. Besides, the script could have delved more into technicalities of playing techniques offering us greater insights.
However, there is no denying the film gets its cricket, and its inflections and research pitch perfect. Transporting us back to the moment when Kapil Dev and his men served us a cricketing feat and our first world cup we can gloat over for ages to come, Kabir Khan creates a cinematic treatise. 83 is just the treat both movie buffs and cricket lovers can relish and the one we were waiting to unfurl on 70 mm screens. In times when Omicron threat looms large, his ode to cricket gives us credible cause for (and to) cheer.
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