The story of India’s first world cup victory makes for a thrilling watch

STORY: Captain Kapil Dev led a team from India, seen as underdogs, to bring home the country’s first-ever World Cup title in the year 1983. Kabir Khan’s ‘83’ encapsulates the journey of this team that taught a nation to believe and to pin its hopes on its cricket players’ by returning home as a set of uniquely gifted world champions.

REVIEW: First few minutes into the film, Kabir Khan uses an intelligently crafted passport sequence to introduce the audience to characters in the film. He also uses dialogue and light conversations to let you in on a fact – Indians didn’t trust India to bring home the World Cup. That’s when you realise this film is not about winning on a world stage, it’s about earning respect.

At every stage in the film, Kabir has juxtaposed real images with the reel ones – making one sit up and take note of the fact that he has heavily invested in research and the recreation (the scenes look as good as the real incidents on the field) of defining moments in Team India’s 1983 World Cup journey. You realise that the film was not all drama or all sport – it made a clear attempt to amalgamate both. And to a large degree, it succeeds in doing so.

India’s love for cricket has a lot to do with the way the team of 1983 went on to knock the wind out of the West Indies, a nearly-unbeatable cricket team of the period, during the World Cup Finals that year. At one point during the tournament, the level of expectation from Team India was low enough for a broadcaster to easily choose a match between giants, West Indies and Australia over a match between India and Zimbabwe. The latter was the match where Indian skipper Kapil Dev created history with the Mongoose bat, and it’s that legendary innings that had not been recorded on camera.

If you’re paying to watch this film, that sequence alone will make the trip paisa vasool. Kapil Dev’s innings not only saved the day for India, but they earned the team a spot at the table and a large amount of respect which it had been lacking from every corner until then – the cricket control board back home, Indians living in India and abroad, from the international and domestic press and also from those who had already made a mark in the game. 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.

When you hear Ranveer Singh nailing Kapil Dev’s unmissable style of talking, perfectly recreating his Natraj shot on the ground, his bowling action and his body language, you know you’re in the thick of a sports drama revolving around cricket. But when you hear him talk about why he thinks, believes and feels the way he does for the sport, you hear a man telling you what makes him a distinguished name in the game. We’ve all seen the iconic picture of Kapil Dev holding up the world cup; the film delves into why we tend to feel emotionally charged each time we see it.

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. While Ranveer does play the captain’s innings here, Saqib Saleem, Tahir Raj Bhasin, Ammy Virk, Hardy Sandhu, Jatin Sarna are among those who add sheen to this film.

Yes, it does play on the nationalism rhetoric, way more than was required. The film’s own spirit would have driven home the point that the rhetoric scenes were trying to make. ‘83’ had scope for some good music which could have added better tempo to the narrative. But that said, with this, Kabir Khan does set a high benchmark for himself, once again.

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