Synopsis – On June 25, 1983, the Lord’s Cricket Ground witnessed 14 men beat the two times World Champions West Indies, putting India back onto the cricket world stage.
My Take – It’s known fact that cricket and films are rigorously worshiped in India. However, an amalgamation of the two, barring the fictional Oscar nominated Lagaan (2001), the excellent biopic M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story (2016) and the 2019 Telugu blockbuster Jersey (whose Hindi remake comes out this weekend), have rarely been successful.
Nevertheless, all misconceived elements may not ring true for director Kabir Khan‘s latest which recreates the events leading up to India’s first historic world cup win in 1983, a win which literally paved the way for the dominating cricket craze that continues till date in the country.
Sure, the film is predictable but thankfully Kabir Khan and co-writers Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan and Vasan Bala still end up delivering an exhilarating and touching experience that is sure to leave viewers caught up in an afterglow of excited patriotism. Mounted like a brilliantly restored or recreated documentary, the film captures the highs and lows of Team India, a clear underdog, throughout the tournament, all leading up to their final match against the reigning world champs West Indies.
Acting as an ode to the sport, along with its innate power to move and excite, here, director Kabir Khan by giving us a panoramic view of the Indian cricket team as it was in 1983, has ended up creating what will undoubtedly go down as one of the best sport-based films India has ever made.
. The story follows Kapil Dev (Ranveer Singh), the newly cemented captain of the Indian cricket team, who along with team manager PR Man Singh (Pankaj Tripathi), and his team of players consisting of Sunil Gavaskar (Tahir Raj Bhasin), Krishnamachari Srikkanth (Jiiva), Mohinder Amarnath (Saqib Saleem), Yashpal Sharma (Jatin Sarna), Madan Lal (Harrdy Sandhu), Roger Binny (Nishant Dahiya), Balwinder Sandhu (Ammy Virk), Syed Kirmani (Sahil Khattar), Sandeep Patil (Chirag Patil), Kirti Azad (Dinker Sharma), Dilip Vengsarkar (Adinath Kothare), Ravi Shastri (Dhairya Karwa) and Sunil Valson (R Badree) head to England to compete in the 1983 World Cup.
Though they are initially trashed by the press and the spectators, but slowly with sheer will manage to snatch admiration with win after win against accomplished opponents, ultimately dusting the English team out of the tournament ultimately taking on the giants of the game, West Indies, in the finals.
Backed by ace production values, the narrative shifts smoothly back and forth between the players’ personal and professional lives, matches and moments of leisure, with a steady rhythm. Instead of focusing just on Kapil Dev and his triumphs, director Kabir Khan spends enough time to give room to each key player’s personal conflicts and ambition, and the many struggles and hurdles that the team had to face as an underdog, a misfit in a clash of the titans. He never loses sight of the central narrative, and is keenly aware of where all the action is.
Therefore, the majority of the film plays out on the cricket field, and dutifully captures all the key moments that have now become a part of India’s collective consciousness. This is precisely why, even at 161 minutes, the film doesn’t feel as long.
Sure, the scenes showing the men at play are high on drama and adrenaline, but it’s the ones that show their off-field banter and camaraderie that give the film its beating heart. While there are superfluous elements present like the overly loud Sikh supporter, and the inclusion of a young Sachin Tendulkar, for instance, plays to the gallery and feels a bit silly, the film works nevertheless because it is a celebration.
Of course, a major part of the film’s success should be credited to the cast and their performances, especially Ranveer Singh. Here, Ranveer Singh not just gets Kapil Dev’s physicality and bowling style right, he has also nailed his dialect, the inability to speak proper English, the self-deprecating humor, the unassuming discipline, and the quiet resolve to win despite it all. He literally makes you forget it is him on screen and not Kapil Dev. Despite his continuing success, Ranveer is a rare actor who sheds his stardom, like a second skin every time he steps into a character.
The rest of the cast is just as impressive. Deepika Padukone is excellent as always, Tamil star Jiiva, making his Hindi debut here, is an absolute standout, while Saqib Saleem, Nishant Dahiya, Ammy Virk, Tahir Raj Bhasin and Jatin Sarna make the best out of their better written characters.
While in other roles, Pankaj Tripathi, Neena Gupta, Harrdy Sandhu, Sahil Khattar, Chirag Patil, Dinker Sharma, Adinath Kothare, Dhairya Karwa and R Badree are effective. On the whole, ’83’ is a well-adapted emotional and exhilarating experience that will certainly find appreciation from Cricket fans.
Directed – Kabir Khan
Rated – PG
Run Time – 168 minutes