Release Date: 24/12/2021

Cast: Ranveer Singh, Pankaj Tripathi, Jiiva, Jatin Sarna, Ammy Virk, Deepika Padukone, Tahir Raj Bhasin

Director: Kabir Khan

Kabir Khan’s 83 is over 2 hours and 30 minutes long and yet it doesn’t spend more than a few fleeting seconds on anything else other than cricket and the drama surrounding it. The film starts with the first few warm-up games that India played against English County teams and culminates with the iconic World Cup Final against West Indies.

Apart from the key matches that the country played in the tournament, we get to witness some important moments that are used as a catalyst to contribute to the drama and push the narrative of the film forward. There are a few moments involving the family members of the players, the fun and frolic between them, and also some personal tragedy from their respective lives but all of it used efficiently to contribute to making the matches and certain specific aspects in the matches extraordinary and emotionally rewarding.

We all know the story of the 1983 World Cup. It is one of the most inspiring and impressive underdog stories of all times in the history of the game. The problem with telling such a well-known story is in keeping it interesting, dramatic, and thrilling. The execution of the film was burdened to ensure that such an inspiring story was told well and was told in a way that conveyed not only the drama of the story but also convey in an elevated form the moments of patriotism, sacrifice, leadership, and an insatiable desire for achieving what was never achieved before.

Kabir Khan is successful in doing just that. I wouldn’t shy away from saying that there were periods in the film when the energy of the actors dwindled and there were also times when it felt as if the director was repeating himself and using the same tropes to extract excitement and thrill. But then there were also moments that appealed to the Indian cricket fanatic in me and reminded me of some of the most iconic shots from the 1983 World Cup that Indian millennials like me have grown up watching on the television. These moments are not only faithfully recreated but were infused with enough energy and finesse to not feel fake and choreographed.

The cricket matches in the film are recreated with a lot of attention to detail. Be it the uniforms of the players, the kind of gear they are shown wearing or the way each of the players is shown playing. The director has evidently done his homework. Also, the fact that the producers of the film signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the entire 1983 Indian Cricket team ensured that each of the players was involved in the creative process and the production team was allowed to use real names and incidents from their lives ensured that there was a sense of realism and authenticity in everything that was on screen.

It is not just the Indian actors that resemble the real players. The West Indians are chosen carefully, and they resemble some of the greats flawlessly ensuring that the players are not a caricature but replicas of the real ones. This in turn made the showdown between the two teams even more thrilling and believable. The cricket matches are shot in a manner that reminds us of how cricket broadcast was done in those days. The camera was fixed in one end and when the batsmen had their backs to this end, the angle was from behind him. This was in sharp contrast to modern times where we have multiple cameras covering every angle. Each of the actors has evidently nailed the bowling and battling styles of their respective characters and they use that as a means to further immerse the audiences in the unfolding drama. 

My only complaint with how the matches were recreated was with the editing of it. They should have avoided cutting the sequences so extensively. It did spoil the physicality of many moments and liquidated the tension that would have been infused had Kabir Khan gone for editing it just like a live match is edited in its rendering into highlights only using editing to focus on the interpersonal drama from time to time. 

Kabir Khan had a mammoth task at hand to piece together a story from an ocean of moments and story elements that must have been the 1983 world cup tour and everything surrounding it. It can be safely said that he has been successful in telling a cohesive, focused, and engrossing story that feels real and inspiring when it needs to be. I was also in awe of how well he envisioned and recreated the period. Special mention has to be made of the production design team as they have done a phenomenal job in recreating the look and feel of 1983 England with clinical precision and yet have been able to keep it very natural and palpable.

83 is a performance-driven film and it boasts of a leading man who has given it his everything. Ranveer Singh has practically transformed himself into Kapil Dev and the hard work shows in every frame that he is in. His dialog delivery might feel odd to many ears and that is because we know how Ranveer sounds. But if one forgets that for a second and takes him to be Kapil Dev, the impersonation feels on point. His performance elevates many sequences that might have turned out ordinary had it not been for his effective rendering. He not only nails the physical aspects of the character but successfully brings out the mental state of the man who knows what is at stake for him and his team. He knows that everyone has written them off even before they had started and that is why it is so important for him to prove them wrong. Ranveer plays wonderfully off the other actors and that helps his cause even more.

Jiiva as the flamboyant and fast-talking Krishnamachari Srikkanth is the next most noticeable. He is not only likable but also leaves quite an impact with his subtle comedy and one sequence where he stands up for Kapil Dev when Kapil is pushed to a corner by a foreign sports journalist. Ammy Virk plays Balwinder Sandhu, and he is the exact opposite of Jiiva. He is a humble and naïve lad who doesn’t understand English well. This aspect proves to be a contributing factor to a lot of comedy in the film. Jatin Sarna as Yashpal Sharma is wonderful. Unfortunately, Deepika Padukone has at best a cameo in the film. Also, her wig is atrocious. But then again, this isn’t the film that one will go to see Deepika in her elements.

A film like 83 needed an inspiring soundtrack to rouse the audiences in moments of glory and victory. Julius Packiam’s score is able to infuse inspiration and a heightened sense of patriotism in moments of glory and heroism. Pritam scores big with the “Lehra do” track sung by Arijit Singh. I heard this track on a loop on my way back from the theater. The moment when this track is played in the film not only augured well for it but also infused a sense of wish fulfillment and glory thereby elevating the said moment to a much higher level.  

83 is a well-made and well-meaning recreation of the Indian 1983 world cup tour. It is bolstered by a terrific performance from Ranveer Singh. The direction by Kabir Khan is on point and leaves no room for any complaints. The film will most definitely bring back memories of astounding glory that will leave most viewers with the best possible taste in the mouth after the screening is over. This could be the perfect watch amid the Christmas festivities.

Rating: 3.5/5 (3.5 out of 5 Stars)  

Also read: If justice is meant for all, why is the price of justice so high?

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