83 movie review: Ranveer Singh plays the captain's knock in this action-packed thriller.
Some days are indelible. The 25th of June 1983 was not just the day India won the World Cup final for the first time at Lords; it was also the turning point in how we saw ourselves as a cricketing nation, and how that incredible win fed into the veins of a country that had previously seen itself as an afterthought on and off the field. The following morning, banner headlines screamed 'The Cup Is Ours,' and nothing was the same again. It was a blood surge to rival all others.
Kabir Khan's '83 faithfully recreates the day, and, should we say, in full Bollywood style, replete with song, dance, drama, and color. It paddings the picture with a few (fictional?) parts aimed just for the gallery, and it veers dangerously close to catering to the overpowering patriotic feelings playing out in today's India. How else are you supposed to feel when a player's face is limned against the national flag and the scene is held just a hair longer so you don't miss the connection? Why would you continuously chose to focus on an old toothless Muslim guy sparkling with delight, or a tiny boy waving the Indian flag, or a group of Indian soldiers on the border gathered anxiously around the radio? Yes, cricket-crazed Indians might put an end to rioting, army could settle a sectarian conflict, and we could all 'connect' over a game, but some of those scenarios had a tinny Doordarshan feel to them. The populist touches in 'Bajrangi Bhaijaan' may have been toned down by Kabir Khan, but this is a different India, and the playing fields are changed.
But I also have to emphasise that we don't let it mar the moment. And then there's the movie. We take note of it, recognise that the picture might have used some trimming (its 2.5-hour runtime does feel stretched in places), and return to cheering. Because, wow, it was a win, and it was much sweeter because no one, including the majority of the Indian team, the team's manager P R Mansingh (Pankaj Tripathi), the sneering English officials, and cricket fans back home, thought something as historic as this was really conceivable.
Except with one exception. India skipper Kapil Dev (Ranveer Singh), who never looks away from the target. At a press conference, he asks, "What else are we here for?" We believe because of the light in his eyes and the assurance in his voice. He is the man on the spot, dealing with egos, chivvying his teammates, and maintaining team spirit. One of the things the film does well is hint at Kapil's problems with Sunil Gavaskar (Tahir Raj Bhasin) during that English summer, who is shown both sulking and skulking at not being given his due: how could this upstart, the rough-and-tumble Haryanvi lad who didn't play nice and gentlemanly and all things cricket, be made India captain?
But when the hour comes, so does the man. This remark, as any cricket-loving, commentary-devouring fan would grimace at, was never more true than when Kapil and his Devils ripped through the formidable West Indies in that historic final, fending off the Australians and the Poms, backed by Kapil Dev's famous 175 runs against Zimbabwe. It was a captain's knock, but it went unnoticed since the BBC was on strike that day.
The horsing around in the locker area and the light conversation are effectively replicated. A scenario in which K Srikanth nicknamed Cheeka (Jiiva) brings Kapil and another colleague to eat dosai at the home of a doe-eyed South Indian girl is performed solely for laughs. But it does provide us an insight into the athletes' personal lives: who were these guys when they weren't competing for guts and glory on the field? It took enormous guts to face hostile bowling without the armour that bowlers nowadays take for granted: those lethal bouncers from Andy Roberts and Michael Holding (the actors playing the West Indians are suitably smug) that took skin and bone and drew blood were the stuff of nightmares.
Each player, some of whom appear eerily similar to their real-life counterparts, is given a turn. Jiiva almost steals the film with a great speech in which he confronts a snobbish British journalist (I'd happily see the film again just for this). Ammy Virk as Balwinder Sandhu, Saqib Saleem as Mohinder Amarnath (one of the running gags in this film is the'real' Amarnath playing his father, 'Lalaji,' Jatin Sarna as Yashpal Sharma, one of the chief architects of the victory, Boman Irani as Farookh Engineer, first stoic then excitable in the commentary box, and the irrepressible Pankaj Tripathi Deepika Padukone's performance as Kapil's wife Romi, on the other hand, should have been better utilised; she literally comes up the rear.
But it makes no difference. Ranveer Singh, who disappears inside his Kapil Dev, is the one who gets us over all of these niggles. 'Aukaat se zyada khelna padega,' he says, sounding eerily similar to Kapil, and then walks out and executes it. The slightly protruding teeth, the discomfort with English (those self-deprecatory digs at himself make me chuckle), the methodical delivery, and the never-say-die attitude are all right on. (The house falls apart when we see real-life Kapil cheerleading from the stands.) Batting, bowling, being the 'captain,' and staying on top: his game is a shambles.
Ranveer Singh, Pankaj Tripathi, Tahir Raj Bhasin, Jiiva, Saqeeb Salim, Jatin Sarna, Ammy Virk, Chirag Patil, Dinker Sharma, Nishant Dahiya, Harrdy Sandhu, Sahil Khattar, Adinath Kothare, Dhairya Karwa, Deepika Padukone, Neena Gupta, Boman Irani are among the cast members
Kabir Khan is the 83rd film director.
3.5 stars for the film 83.