JANUARY 1, 2021
Kapil’s grit and gusto, his flamboyant style of batting, his energetic run up, his diction and his mannerisms are all on display on screen through an actor who was born two years after 1983. (Representative Image/HT File)
Those were very different times in India. Simplicity, quite simply, adorned people’s expressions. Success was rare. But we had our heroes. Somehow, there aren’t as many around these days.
Kapil Dev’s men pulled off a well nigh unimaginable victory in the 1983 cricket world cup, against all predictions, all odds, all logic. Our dibbly-dobbly seam attack and a motely group of batsmen, some doughty, others spunky, achieved the impossible with a brand of cricket that, in hindsight, actually suited the conditions more aptly than any other team’s at the time. But who knew?
Kabir Khan’s much awaited film, 83,which is centred on that momentous milestone in India’s sporting history has brought out our goose pimples and moistened our eyelids, even though four decades have elapsed. With style, verve, poise, an eye for detail, an emotional connect and an inspired narrative, the film wins our hearts. 83 is adroitly able to bring out the shyness, the camaraderie, the defiant spirit, the gradually enveloping sense of “we might actually be able to do it” that team India exemplified under the captaincy of the magnificent Kapil Dev in that world cup.
Ranveer Singh’s portrayal of Kapil leaves us in awe of the aura of the champion all rounder, all over again. For us, the man on screen is not Ranveer, but the great cricketer himself. Kapil’s grit and gusto, his flamboyant style of batting, his energetic run up, his diction and his mannerisms are all on display on screen through an actor who was born two years after 1983. His astonishing, blistering,boisterous and world-record shattering innings of 175 not out against Zimbabwe has been showcased for us, as if for the first time, even though in enactment. The BBC’s strike on that unforgettable day, and the cricket world’s inability to watch even a single ball, is the stuff of legends as well.
Kabir Khan has even managed to replicate most of the original scenes from the ‘83 world cup that we,watched on re-runs over the decades. Each memorable stroke that the cavalier Kris Srikkanth, the courageous Mohinder Amarnath, the swashbuckling Sandeep Patil, or the redoubtable Yashpal Sharma played during the cup has been filmed with almost exactly the same technique and manner as the originals. Kapil’s running catch at mid-wicket to dismiss the world’s greatest batsman off Madan Lal, Balwinder Sandhu’s astounding in-swinger which bamboozled the formidable Gordon Greenidge, Roger Binny’s impressive swingers and Amarnath’s slowish seam up bowling, have all been brought out with impressive authenticity. Sunil Gavaskar’s brooding (but ultimately joyful) expressions and Dilip Vengsarkar’s anguish after being struck by a Malcom Marshall bouncer, too, have been very adeptly portrayed.
Deepika Padukone as Romi Dev is perhaps the only one who appears more like her own self than the character she portrays, but she too does her best to merge herself with her role. The stand out acting performance comes from Pankaj Tripathi as PR Man Singh. He is under the skin, under the breath, and seamlessly seeped in the persona of Singh. He acts brilliantly, compellingly, and with telling effect.
Yet, more significantly, this remarkable film is merely a reminder of the unquestionable ground level impact of that 1983 victory, which came as a manna from heaven. India was by no means an all-conquering nation. We were forever the global ‘sideys’ despite our immense population. And though India reformed its economy from 1991 onwards, and the IT era later fashioned remarkable successes for Indian companies, it was from the 1980s that we slowly started imbibing confidence and standing up to the world as a people.
Kapil Dev’s team actually transformed the narrative for the youth of that generation. We too began to believe, as Kapil did, that we could beat the best. We too began aspiring, as a then school-going Sachin Tendulkar did, to scale impossible heights.
And even more tellingly, young India, in its villages, along its borders,in the hinterland, across its length and breadth, identified with that achievement in 1983, as being his or her own breakthrough moment. A never-say-die moment to remember for all times to come. That, then, was and is, the true meaning of the 1983 win.