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Tahir Raj Bhasin On 83: “It’s The Pressure Of Getting It Right & Real As Possible”

Tahir Raj Bhasin has never feared of being stereotyped into doing negative roles post his critical and commercial successes Mardaani and Force 2.

Due to is this grit, determination and focus as an actor, last year was quite triumphant for him as the coming-of-age Chhichhore emerged as a blockbuster. So, how has life been for him since?

“It’s drastically changed after because a lot of the parts before had a grey, ‘anti-hero’ streak to them. Derek in Chhichhore was all-heart and was possessive and emotional about his hostel mates, who could risk it all in order to win the pride back.

Since the film, studios have started to view my abilities as an actor, that I’m able to do parts are not necessarily dark. I feel that careerwise it’s a great place to be because when you begin as a hero, you a do a project like Chhichhore which is more of a family film.

Consequently, writers and directors view you differently, opening you up to a whole new palette of roles which is exciting.”

Bhasin is set to push the envelope further as he plays Sunil Gavaskar in Kabir Khan’s forthcoming sports drama film – 83.

Gavaskar is widely regarded as one of the greatest Test batsmen and best opening batsmen in Test cricket history. He set world records during his career for the most Test runs and most Test centuries scored by any batsman.

Though it’s his sports-oriented role, it is not Tahir’s first endeavour at playing a real-life character… He essayed the yesteryear actor Sunder Shyam Chadda in Nandita Das’ Manto. How useful has this experience been for him as an actor for 83?

“For me, when you look at it as an actor especially when you’re playing well-known people, it’s a great responsibility because you have relatives watching you as well as sports commentators/critics who’ll be watching. It’s a tight rope to be walking.

You have the crutch of having a lot written about the person, so you have an idea of what they’re going to be but there’s also pressure to get it right and as real as possible.”

Shedding more light on his preparation process, Tahir says:

“It was extremely challenging and we started about a year ago. I don’t come from a cricket background, whereas a lot of the other cast members had some sort of practical experience in it.

I had only played Gully cricket. I didn’t have professional coaching before, so I had to start from scratch.

But this really works to one’s advantage because it becomes easier to be moulded into someone else’s batting style.

It took 6 months of training with a national coach to just get his (Gavaskar’s) strokes and stance right. Given that people in India are enthusiasts in films and cricket… When you try to do both of those things together, you know people are going to have an opinion.

Before I got to the ‘acting’ part, I had to get the cricket part right and we spent a lot of time training – in stretches and forms. Just to get the physicality of the part.”

Kabir Khan is an expert in films which are focused on human sentiments amidst a backdrop of war and conflict. In what way does 83 relate to this theme?

“As well as it being a sports biopic, it’s about the emotions behind a story of how an underdog team went out there and won. When you assemble all the aspects together, especially when a colonised country like India goes to England and won, it’s a recipe for human emotions.

Like you mentioned, that’s exactly what Kabir Khan is an expert in. Not only that, he comes with a background in documentary filmmaking so he is particular in details which is why 80% of our film is shot on real locations which were great because as an actor it made our job easier.

This is because we wouldn’t need to imagine how the balcony at Lord’s would be… We can actually experience that in recreating those moments.

It’s going to have an incredible docu-drama feel to it where there will be real-life instances, some which people are privy to. But most of those incidents are unheard of.”

Going by the recent Instagram live done by Ranveer Singh, it seems like the cast shares a rather friendly and jovial camaraderie with each other. Bhasin too is in all praises for the actor, who plays Kapil Dev in the movie:

“My rapport with him has been incredible. When you come from the same agency (Yash Raj Films Talent), you meet in the corridors pretty often and keep in touch with the work people are doing.

I always wanted to work with him. He’s like an energetic fireball. Everyone knows that about him. But when it comes to playing the character, nothing distracts the guy! He remained in character for three months.

He lived the life of a sportsperson. Plus, there are so many distractions that can lead one astray when you’re shooting overseas. Even his diet and exercise routine was on point and did exactly what the captain of the team would’ve done.

When actors like him give their 100% you just want to give 110% back. It was great to have that and we trained together, as well as travel in a together. There are some things you need to act and some things need to be organic… We actually felt like a team. Hopefully, that reflects on screen.”

Aside from Tahir and Ranveer, 83 has a major ensemble cast consisting of names like Deepika Padukone, Saqib Saleem, Harrdy Sandhu, Ammy Virk, Pankaj Tripathi, Boman Irani, Jiiva and Sahil Khattar.

The film releases on 10th April 2020.

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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