The story of 83, the Ranveer Singh-starrer that recreates the Indian cricket team’s historic win at the 1983 World Cup, was largely already written. There aren’t any spoilers in this story that a lot of us grew up hearing, of the underdogs who created magic on an international field, bringing home the country’s maiden World Cup.
Where the film, which uses several first-hand accounts to create the narrative, falters is in its treatment of the viewers, a cricket-loving nation that follows the game scrupulously.
The grit of a team that won against all odds, led by a 20-something Kapil Dev, gets lost in this potpourri of inspirational quotes, stirring locker room speeches, and a constant, self-conscious effort to stay within the lines of an underdog sports movie template.
83 throws the viewer right into the action with a shot of Ranveer Singh as Kapil Dev, making the pivotal catch at the final game at Lord’s, dismissing West Indies’ star player Viv Richards. The story then goes back to when the Indian team is preparing to fly out to London for the World Cup, led by their manager PR Man Singh (Pankaj Tripathi) and their new captain, Dev. The 1983 squad is introduced through a sequence at the airport where each of their names is read out aloud from their passports as they make their way through customs.
Although the film is peppered with brief glimpses of the struggle the team went through – shots of tattered shoes, cricketers who had to wash their own uniforms after each game with cheap, store-bought detergent to save up on the paltry 15 pounds each player was given as daily allowance, a bus that arrives late to pick the team up from the airport – it doesn’t linger on these moments for very long. Nor does the film try to hold the cricket management in India at the time accountable. It glosses over these struggles and largely focuses on the locker-room banter and the team’s camaraderie off the field.
When it comes to the game, 83 is akin to watching the highlights of a cricket match where you’re shown only the key moments, the impressive shots, the unbelievable catches and the unexpected, pivotal wickets.
Surprisingly, the makers, who have decided to gloss over most of the finer details of the sport, have also chosen to reference but not explain certain nuances through the narrative – from something as simple as how a pitch changes the game to more complex ones such as the significance of the mongoose bat with which the Indian captain scored an unbeaten 175 runs against Zimbabwe, setting a world record.
Although it tries to paint a picture of the sport as a force that unites, the way in which it tries to do this is bizarre. At one point, an Indian commander gets a call from his Pakistani counterpart informing him that they will not be attacking today in view of the World Cup finals. There’s another one, of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ordering the World Cup semifinals to be broadcast across television screens in India by Doordarshan, in an attempt to bring peace to a small town named Nawabpur where people have been rioting. Also jarring are the cameo appearances by Kapil Dev and Mohinder Amarnath in the film. Dev appears as one of the spectators at a match, cheering himself on, while Amarnath, who appears as his father Lala Amarnath, throws a shoe at the television, disappointed in (you guessed it!) himself.
The final face-off between India and West Indies is the perhaps the only impressive sequence of the game in the film with a keener eye for detail and on-field strategy. Singh, as Kapil Dev, delivers a strong performance and Tripathi also shines as the no-nonsense administrator Man Singh. Deepika Padukone makes a brief but memorable appearance as Dev’s wife Romi.
The writers also deserve a pat on the back for the way the West Indies players of the time are portrayed. I went in hoping the film wouldn’t take the beaten track and portray the opponents as villains, an overconfident bunch that underestimates the underdogs and finally loses to them in a disgracing defeat, and I was pleasantly surprised. The film takes the time to introduce the key players from the erstwhile team to the audience – then captain Clive Lloyd, the legendary Viv Richards, Michael Holding and others. Dev, in one of his locker room speeches, also refers to the West Indies team, not as opponents, but rather as role models for the Indian cricketers to emulate.
Another department that deserves a shout-out, is the one in charge of makeup and hair. The resemblance of the actors to the ’83 winning squad is uncanny.
Cricket is already a game of the masses in India. During every world cup, the sound of live commentary, blended with cheers and whistles, reverberates through the streets. Close matches are almost always watched on the edge of the seat. 83, unfortunately, is unable to bring exactly this to the table – this nail-biting, feverish anticipation with which Indians watch cricket.
This 83 review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.