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An Emotional Rollercoaster

Kabir Khan’s 83 has been on the watch list of filmmakers and cricket lovers as it recreates the 1983 Cricket World Cup win of India. Dhananjay Kelkar reviews the film released on 24th December. 

While sharing the trailer of the film 83, Deepika Padukone, who plays the role of Romi Dev and is the producer of the film, posted on Instagram that the film was ‘the incredible story of the underdogs who pulled off the unthinkable.’ On the eve of the film’s premier at Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, Mini Mathur, wife of Director Kabir Khan, shared an Instagram story posting ‘a film every Indian and cricket lover will watch over and over again.’ Although I was pretty impressed by the official trailer, I decided to take all these statements with a pinch of salt, considering these were made by stakeholders and decided to watch the film before giving it my stamp of approval. 

Incidentally, I had watched this historic cricket win of the Indian team, lead by its charismatic captain Kapil Dev, on Television. I was in my teens then and was the captain of the ‘Mohalla’ cricket team I had founded. Back in those days, only one of us had a Television and it was black and white. So, we would all gather together in Suhail’s place to watch the matches. I had a chemistry test on the day of the final match. I bunked the test and slipped into Suhail’s house from the backdoor for the match. I’m so glad I was able to watch India scripting history that day.  I cannot put into words the sense of exhilaration we felt when the Indian team held aloft its first World cup trophy, and I was sure that no film could possibly replicate the sense of wonder and pride we all felt on winning the world cup.  

So, I went to watch the film, with a strongly held belief that a mere film could not possibly recreate the event with any accuracy, nor could it arouse the feelings of exultation that the actual win had stirred. But as I watched the film unravel before me on the big screen, without wanting to, I was caught up and reliving the world cup tournament. The screen Kapil Dev was uncannily like the Kapil we had worshipped as teenagers. There was the same confident swagger, the same focussed glint in the eye, the same scar on the face and the same Natraj pose as he swatted the ball for a six. The rest of the team of Kirmani, Sandhu, Sandeep Patil, Bhasin et al were also superb and the roles were beautifully enacted by actors like Sahil Khattar (Syed Kirmani), Sunil (Tahir Raj Bhasin), Pankaj Tripathi (PR Man Singh), Ammy Virk (Balwinder Sandhu). This was of course possible as the cast trained with the actual heroes, Balwinder Sandhu and Yashpal Sharma in the Dharmsala Cricket stadium, before the filming began. The filming was also done in the actual tournament locations at Edinburgh Cricket club, Neville Ground at Royal Turnbridge Well in Kent, Oval Cricket ground and Lords. This accounted for the realistic vibe in the film. In an earlier interview with Mumbai Mirror, Kabir Khan had shared about shooting at the Lord’s stadium and said, ‘We shot for five days at the Lord’s stadium in London, entering the members-only Long Room where no camera had ventured before, the dressing rooms and locker rooms, then, stepped out on the balcony where the World Cup was presented to Kapil sir. And guess what? They brought out the real-World Cup for Ranveer too. Overwhelmed, he broke down when I shouted ‘Cut’.’

The film has been made with such exactness of detail, that the viewer becomes an involved onlooker. When they showed the thinly attended press conference of the Indian team where Kapil Dev, in response to a question says, ‘we here to win’, I could not help but rise from my seat and applaud. I looked around and saw that the entire theatre was up, all of them clapping and hooting with glee. By the time the film ended I had gone through a roller coaster of emotions- frustration and anger, when the team was thrashed by Australia and West Indies, a feeling of discouragement when we were down 4 for just 9 runs and then the sense of exultation and disbelief when Kapil Dev reached the crease and began smashing sixers. At times I actually felt goose bumps break out on my skin. I was even able to forgive Kabir Khan for putting Deepika Padukone in the role of Romi Dev to add some unrequired glamour to the film. 

After watching the film at the Red Sea Film International festival, Mini Mathur posted on Instagram ‘What. A. Film. Laughed, cried, hooted, cheered et al. Thank you @kabirkhankk for giving us @83thefilm.’ I whole-heartedly agree with her evaluation of the film, and I’m not even married to Kabir Khan.  Jokes apart, it is a great film with a fabulous cast of actors and has succeeded in recreating the 1983 cricket win of the World cup with finesse and panache. Ranveer Singh’s acting is beyond impressive as he plays the role of Kapil Dev with natural ease. You killed it Kabir!!!

~Dhananjay Kelkar

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