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Interview Hindi

1983 World Cup win is a classic underdog story: Kabir Khan

In an exculsive interview, the director spoke on how Kapil Dev’s team went in as the ultimate underdog and certainly didn’t have the privleges that the players of today enjoy.

Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Mayur Lookhar

After making documentaries, action films and cross-borders dramas, director Kabir Khan threw a surprise when he announced a film on Indian cricket team's historic maiden triumph at the 1983 World Cup. Titled 83, Khan roped in actor Ranveer Singh to essay the role of the winning captain, the all-rounder Kapil Dev. The film is scheduled to be released on 30 August 2019. 

Cinestaan.com spoke with Khan briefly when he walked in for the launch of writer S Hussain Zaidi’s book Eleventh Hour in a Mumbai book store on 6 September. The film is still to go on floors, but the director was sporting enough to briefly briefly about the project.    

83, that was earlier slated to be released on 5 April 2019, has now been pushed by a couple of months. Singh is currently filming for Rohit Shetty’s Simmba. However, that is not the reason for the delay. Khan revealed that he is yet to lock in on the final script. 

“I’m still working. This is one of those stories that is so fascinating that I don’t want to put an end to it till I have discovered everything there,” Khan said. The filmmaker was recently in London researching at the Mecca of cricket, The Lord’s Stadium.

“I spent a long time in London going through the Lord's archives and library. I was there for the Test match [between England and India]. It was a disastrous one [India lost by 159 runs].  It [1983 World Cup] is just one of the stories that every week I discovered a new anecdote,” Khan said, adding that he has met with the entire squad and was left stunned with the many stories that have come his way. 

“I have met with all of them. Their anecdotes, their stories form the backbone of the film. What happened on the field is something we all know. The real story is about what is happening behind the scenes. How this bunch of boys literally sort of held each other and moved into this position of greatness. Nobody believed in them. They were probably the lowest rated one-day international team in the world, and yet went on to win the 1983 World Cup,” Khan added with pride. 

Kabir Khan and Ranveer Singh with the Indian squad of the 1983 World Cup (Photo: Shutterbugs Images)

“What I’m trying to do is - every iconic moment on the field there is a fascinating backstory. It’s either a funny, emotional or dramatic story. That is what I’m trying to do. We are doing it in such a way that it really is not about cricket, but the spirit behind the story,” said the filmmaker.

For 28 years, the fans of the sport and the media have looked at the 1983 World Cup win as the finest hour of Indian cricket. Team India endured some tough period in the 1990s and after the heart breaking losses at the 1996 semi-final and the 2003 final, it was doubtful whether the trophy would return to the Indian soil. However, the Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led team set history by winning the 2011 World Cup at home.

Dhoni and company have now become the heroes. The 1983 World Cup triumph is now history. Isn’t it a challenge to tell the tale of the 1983 win to a population that now cherishes the 2011 win more? 

“It is but there lies the thrill,” Khan says confidently, “I would say there are two parts to the audience, one part is who probably 40-plus they all know about the 1983 triumph. Then there is the youth, who have heard about it but they don’t know how it happened. To tell them how it happened, to tell them how the culture of that team, the ethos of that team... [pauses]. This was a team that was paid 15 pounds a day for lunch, dinner, laundry, phones and how they went about it.”

A very crucial aspect differentiates yesteryear cricketers from the players of today. The modern cricketer enjoys riches, privileges that the cricketers during 1983 couldn’t even dream of. Commenting on it, Khan says, “Today when you talk about a cricketer, you imagine a millionaire, driving a Ferrari, having masseurs, and all professional help. Back then you just had one man, PR Mansingh who used to travel with the whole team. He was a coach, manager everything.

"So, I think it is a fascinating aspect of cricket. The primary difference between 2011 and 1983 was that in 2011 you went in as favourites, where the 1983 team went in as the lowest rated team in the world. This was classic underdog story. I really believe that a great sports story is the story of an underdog. 83 is a classic underdog story.”