Expecting the unexpected is one of life’s most successful formulas. No one had anticipated India to win the 1983 World Cup against West Indies at Lord’s Stadium. This record-breaking victory is a testament to the ultimate ‘underdog’ spirit. Kabir Khan re-introduces this atman on celluloid through 83.
When anyone from the 80s hears the name ‘Kapil Dev’, a wide smile of pride and respect appears on their face and as a film, it achieves this very reaction. As a 90s kid, India’s historic win of this 1983 match is something I hear on chat shows or during family discussions. So for audiences of our generation to witness this phenomenon is quite fascinating. To enhance the nostalgia, we also get glimpses of real-life cricketing heroes Lala Amarnath and Dev himself in passing-by shots. Plus, the set creation is convincing enough too. Even seeing the washing brand ‘Tide’ will take you a trip down memory lane!
Kabir Khan is known for creating soul-stirring moments in his movies and he potently evokes poignancy in 83. In fact, it is interesting how Khan uses children as the progressive ‘voice of reason’ symbol throughout his works. In New York, Daniyal represents moving on from dark and tragic circumstances. Munni in Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Tubelight‘s Gu depict humanity and purity.
In this picture, there is a young boy who holds the tricolour flag, smiling and full of hope. Amidst this is the rejoicing West Indians and the defeated Indian team look up at him, motivated to succeed. Such sequences unify all audiences with the underdog narrative. Given that we are living in such dire circumstances, a sequence like this uplifts audiences. Having said that though, there are plenty of hilarious one-liners and comical bits which balance out the sentimental quotients.
Speaking more of symbolism, there is a scene where the team travel on a bus and Ek Duuje Ke Liye title song plays on Television. Whilst this is a romantic track, it highlights the sportsmen’s passion for cricket. Interestingly, a language barrier is accentuated in the song and Kapil’s character struggles with the English language. Small instances like this leave a great impact. Even the patriotism aspect is exhibited in a subtle way, which fills our hearts with pride. At the same time, it conveys the timely message of unity amongst Indians and the nation, as a whole.
The actors’ camaraderie is the film’s soul. Every actor including Saqib Saleem, Tahir Raj Bhasin, Ammy Virk, Harrdy Sandhu, Jatin Sarna, Jiva and others shine in their respective parts. The banter they share and rapport seems authentic. Jiva gets the nuances of Krishnamachari Srikkanth brilliantly. He is a delight on screen. Playing legends is never easy and to portray those very characters in a film template is challenging but they all do a splendid job. Pankaj Tripathi displays his usual whacky persona. Boman Irani appears as Farrokh Engineer, a former cricketer, but we only see him predominantly as a commentator.
Ranveer Singh gets the mannerisms of India’s former cricket captain aptly. At times, he bears an uncanny resemblance with Kapil Dev too. Arguably, the distinctive role in Singh’s career. Wamiqa Gabbi and Deepika Padukone (also co-producer) get limited screen time as the story focuses majorly on the men. However, as friends and wives of the sports champions, they both do well, especially when it comes to the switch of emotions. They both look beautiful too. Ironic how Neena Gupta is cast especially when one considers the opposition teams faced in the finals.
83 works competently as an engaging sports film. Though, I noticed that the sound gets slightly muffled or disturbed when screams or loud voices are captured. In addition, it may not be the most ‘commercial’ album of a Kabir Khan movie, but the tracks (composed by Pritam) are complementary to the story. ‘Lehra Do’ is a new anthem for nationalistic fervour, considering the post-pandemic self-belief in India. Let this historic triumph encourage us to raise our human spirits.