After several delays and multiple release date alterations finally Kabir Khan’s 83 has released in theaters. The film is based on a historical and unexpected victory in the World-cup by the Indian cricket team in 1983 led by Kapil Dev.
The story promise to have all the ingredients for a perfect theater experience as it combines modern Indian history and cricket. 83 wastes no time to get to its crux. Deeply aware that it has a lot to deliver in a short time, it dives straight into the 1983 Cricket World Cup that played a pivotal role in establishing cricket as the religion that it is in India today.
Ranveer Singh plays Kapil Dev, the fast-medium bowler who captained the Indian cricket team to a never-imagined-before victory. Singh is a chameleon in human form. He shapeshifts. Despite his blockbuster success, he is that rare actor who sheds his stardom, like a second skin every time he steps into a character. Whether it be Padmaavat’s villainous Alauddin Khilji or Gully Boy’s street rapper Murad Ahmed or Band Baaja Baaraat’s boy next door Bittu Sharma, Singh becomes every man he plays. You may not like his off-screen persona, but there is no dismissing him on screen.
In 83, Ranveer Singh is a delight to watch. He’s got not just The Haryana Hurricane’s physicality and bowling style right, he has also nailed his dialect, the inability (and hence all the more the need) to speak English, the self-deprecating humor, the unassuming discipline, and the quiet resolve to win despite it all.
Khan’s biggest win in the film is neither his choice of the subject nor the leading man. It’s what he has done with both of them that makes 83 such a glorious watch. The film could have easily been Kapil Dev’s biopic. But it’s not. It’s so much more. Instead of focusing on one man and his triumphs, Khan gives us a panoramic view of the Indian cricket team as it was in 1983. He 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. 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 83 its beating heart.
The rest of the team is as terrific as its captain. Tahir Raj Bhasin as Sunil Gavaskar, Jiiva as Krishnamachari Srikkanth, Saqib Saleem as Mohinder Amarnath, Ammy Virk as Balwinder Sandhu, Harrdy Sandhu as Madan Lal, and Jatin Sarna as Yashpal Sharma are all in excellent form. Though Pankaj Tripathi as the team’s manager PR Man Singh and Deepika Padukone as Kapil Dev’s wife Romi Dev don’t have much to do, their presence bolsters the film’s stature.
At the surface, ‘83’ is about an underdog team’s win. As you go deeper, with each actor effortlessly presenting himself as an iconic cricketer from the 1983 team, you tend to feel that this picture has been crafted with a skillfully written narrative, supported by nuanced and internalised performances, and each department lending its technical brilliance to it.
A special mention must be made for the way the iconic moments in Team India’s journey in the 1983 World Cup were recreated for the film. They were blended in beautifully with drama and emotions. The film’s writing team must be credited for weaving it all in, almost seamlessly. The film is based on real events and there’s little scope for one to take cinematic liberties. In the course of its run, you will realise that at the end of the day, it was an internal journey of a group of underdogs, who were fighting odds internally and externally – the factor that as Indians we’d all relate with, especially in the context of the sport 83 is based on and the period in which the chain of events took place.
India’s surprise first match against the West Indies, Kapil Dev‘s world-record-breaking 175 against Zimbabwe, which kept India alive in the 1983 World Cup, and Kapil’s backward running catch in the final to dismiss Vivian Richards, which turned the match around. These are the moments that defined the 1983 Cricket World Cup, and they are also the ones that make this film.
83 The film takes its time getting into the core of things, with several funny bits that don’t hurt but don’t offer much. Also, the film’s first half suffers from a lack of a decent script, which Kabir’s great direction happily avoids for the rest of the film.
The biggest selling point of the film has been that more than being a sports film with national sentiments attached to it, it is a story of human perseverance and the classic underdog story. How everyone believed that this Indian team would be mere spectator and eventually proved quiet the contrary.
The fact that no one took the captain’s intention to win the world cup seriously plays out at different points in the film which reiterates what drove the team eventually to put its best foot forward. Little joys, sorrows, glorious wins, painful defeats, internal upheavals that each player experienced, their individual journeys, and the journey of becoming a team that could trust itself to defeat the mightiest men in the gentleman’s game, is what Kabir Khan’s dramatic ‘83’ is all about.
If you’ve been to 83, you’ll walk out with a big smile on your face, dripping with nostalgia if you’ve been there, or trying to live the memory if you’ve simply heard and read about it and have always wanted to go.