83 seems to be done with such retrospective wisdom that it’s the film’s most overwhelming quality. He never fully understands the fact that these were just 14 ignorant men with noble intentions.
Ranveer Singh as Kapil Dev in 83
There is certainly a thin line between crowd pleaser and pimping, the one that Kabir Khan 83 can not worry about its battery life of almost three hours. The director’s eyes are on the prize.
So it makes sense that in a movie about one of India’s greatest triumphs on the world stage, it turns to a curly-haired boy called Sachin, celebrating India’s 1983 World Cup victory in calling out : “Dad ! main bhi India ke liye khelega!(Even I want to play for India, elder brother!). It is a shameless servile nod to the 21st century Indian cricketer fan (who Also happens to be the target audience of the film) that everything else doesn’t matter anymore. It might be a throwaway moment, but it’s also indicative of something fundamentally dishonest about Khan’s movie.
Arguably based on India’s greatest success at a cricket pitch, one might wonder if there was a need for 83 to have a constant eye on the Indian cricket fan in 2021. So much so that a senior colleague next to me (inspired by the cinematic language of 83) began to wonder if we would also see baby Yuvraj Singh pumping a bottle of milk for six from his crib. It doesn’t make sense as long as the audience get it, and applauds – seems to be Khan’s mantra.
The gaze of 83 appears to be actively serving the Virat Kohli era of cricket. Yashpal Sharma (Jatin Sarna) growls about teaching Srikanth a lesson after being accidentally punched by him on the head. In a different scene, Madan Lal (Harrdy Sandhu) rants in front of Captain Kapil Dev (Ranveer Singh) after reading a newspaper article calling the Indian team “lucky” to advance to the semi-finals. Even Singh’s Dev is shown crumpling hostile newspaper articles and using them to clean his spikes.
Now, I’m not sure how ‘fact-based’ this is, nor am I saying that there had been no aggression in Indian cricket before Kohli’s emergence. But this attempt by the creators to deify gamers, instead of focusing on their mundane personalities, makes the viewing experience almost corrupt. There is one particularly shocking scene with K Srikanth (Jiiva) chanting his captain’s praises as the tournament continues, especially ahead of the knockout stages where the story could have ended in any way. It’s like he’s talking with the anecdotal energy of a 20th reunion party, marveling at their blissful ignorance with which they’ve pursued greatness. There is no uncertainty in his voice, no fear, as if he already knew India won the 83 World Cup. Or he didn’t care who had.
83 seems to be done with such retrospective wisdom that it’s the film’s most overwhelming quality. He never fully embraces the fact that these were just 14 ignorant men with noble intentions, completely out of their depth on how they were on the cusp of something that was to shape a generation.
The way PR team principal Man Singh (Pankaj Tripathi with a Hyderabadi accent) says, “We won our freedom in 1947, but we still have to earn respect! seems to suggest that was the plan from the start to win the World Cup.
Ranveer sincerely tries to ooze the confidence of a silent competitor, which is probably what Dev surely was, but then again, was he ever put off by the audacity of what he was trying to do. accomplish? Did he never have doubts in his head that would survive a ballad by Arijit Singh invoking the tricolor?
I understand that it is a Masala movie. I realize the creators answer the lowest denominator, but can simplistic choices trivialize what makes the real story so compelling? 83 seems to answer in the affirmative. Especially how Man Singh stands on the roof and waves to Dev’s sleeves shortly after calling him a “freedom fighter”. The anecdote of a military bunker on the Indo-Pakistan border is impossible to see without the underlying subtext of the commodification of patriotism, and how the bravery of the Indian military has become a punchline for politicians and the pop culture speech. The melody is perhaps slightly more refined here, but it dilutes the 1983 victory with unnecessary program.
Even the inclusion of spouses, Romi Dev (Deepika Padukone) and Annu Lal (Wamiqa Gabbi), is in the most superficial sense. They are there to shed tears when their spouses lose, and to clap when they are doing well. Did the players share their fears or doubts with them before the final? Dev is only shown watching the Lord’s Stadium intently, as Romi gives him a spiel about competing for his five-year-old, who includes the privilege of representing his nation in a Cup final. world. Khan and his team (Vasan Bala and Sumit Arora) surely could have invented something less mundane.
What is the most disappointing 83 that’s what it looks like with a glorified set of highlights at the end. He never struggles with the mindset of 15 unlikely “heroes”. Instead, we see the mouth of Sunil Gavaskar from Tahir Raj Bhasin, “Yeseh saala bol raha hai paper khaa jaayega agar hum jeet gaye toh,as if he had recently received a pep talk from Kohli. Also, the many, many reaction shots of Mohinder Amarnath (playing Lala Amarnath) going through wide emotions – proud, angry, tense and therefore furiously smoking his pipe The movie is so happy with this casting (sort of), they overdo it to the point of annoyance.
83 never weighs in on ignorance of what these men were about to accomplish (as much as their opponents and experts around the world). None of the players appear to be real people. It is a free country; everyone can do whatever they want. But by appropriating one of India’s greatest sporting triumphs, Khan ended up disrespecting the very fable surrounding the 1983 World Cup victory and his legacy. That’s only a problem if the cash registers don’t ring, right?
Tatsam Mukherjee has been working as a film journalist since 2016. He is based in Delhi NCR.