Article Hindi

2002 freed us of our inferiority complex: Abhinay Deo on the Lord's moment that defines Doosra

Director Abhinay Deo speaks of the importance of the iconic NatWest Series win in 2002, and why he chose it as the focal point of his upcoming film.

Shriram Iyengar

It is the cricket World Cup season and India's march into the semifinals has been relentless. The team's display of confidence, verve and style has earned it a lot of praise.

But for a generation of cricket fans, the sight of this confidently swaggering team is almost unreal. As someone who grew up watching India struggle overseas, director Abhinay Deo welcomes this change.

Deo's next film, Doosra, captures the moment this 'paradigm shift in attitude', as he calls it, came about. It was the moment when India seized victory from the jaws of defeat at the 2002 NatWest Series in England.

The sight of a shirtless Saurav Ganguly screaming and whirling his India jersey on the staid balcony of Lord's has become the stuff of cricketing legend. Speaking to on the telephone, Abhinay Deo revealed why he chose that moment to be the focal point of his new film. 

"The whole idea behind the film is exactly that," the director explained. "It revolves around that single idea. In 1947, we got our political independence. In 1991 was our economic independence. But when did we, as a country, get free from our inferiority complex? When did that happen? That was in 2002!" 

The trailer for Doosra captures the parallel change that the victory brought about in the Indian population. The film also follows the story of Tara (Plabita Borthakur), a young woman discovering herself, her identity, and her place in Indian society, and finding the courage to grab it. 

This, said Abhinay Deo, is what the film is about, a country seeking to assert itself. 

Describing the Indian cricket fan's mindset before this change, the director said, "We had a bad record overseas. It was our prerogative [only] to save the match. There was always a 50% chance that we may lose. It was never that element of celebrating a victory. It was almost a slightly apologetic tone."

All that changed with the arrival of Saurav Ganguly as the brash, new face of Indian cricket. The director said, "In 2002, after a captain like Ganguly came in, he instilled it in our team. It became a large part of what the audience in India also took home. He instilled the attitude that we need to play to win. Our attitude should be that we are as good, if not better, than the opponents.

"Ganguly introduced the idea that we are already better, we just have to show it to them. This is the same attitude you see in [Mahendra Singh] Dhoni and, later on, Virat's captaincy. Virat [Kohli] has gone a couple of levels beyond."

This momentous change is what the director remembers. Reflecting on his own experience of the moment, Deo said, "In 2002, I had just started making independent ad films. That whole NatWest final was a ride."

India were not known to be good chasers, and the English batsmen had set a difficult target (back then) of 325 runs. India started off well in the chase, but a flurry of wickets soon rid fans of their hopes.

Deo recalled, "Ganguly and [Virender] Sehwag had put up a partnership. So we were getting there. Then there was an incredible downer when we were 146-5. The ups and downs one went through that day..."

Then the true chase began. Yuvraj Singh, Mohammed Kaif, Harbhajan Singh and, later, Zaheer Khan batted out of their skins to take India home. The win set off a celebration at the Lord's pavilion the likes of which had not been seen before. Saurav Ganguly's image was etched in cricket history. 

But for Deo, the moment was more sobering. Recalling his own reaction, the director said, "I remember it very distinctly, when we made it... actually, we sat back. More than jubilation, it was a realization of what just happened here. I think it made a lot of people, that is the germ of the thing, think about what had actually happened there.

"There were so many emotions running through me at the time. What Kaif and Yuvraj did was nothing less than the patriots who fought for their country. How is it any different? They pushed themselves knowing very well that the ones whom it was expected of had, unfortunately, been unable to deliver."

Comparing the performance to a fight, Deo reflected, "They went and played better than they had ever played. They were as valiant as anyone we can think of from the non-sporting field." 

Seventeen years after the event, the director has captured the moment in his movie. "The fact that 17 years after that I could make a film on it, wow! It is a dream come true," he said.

On the other hand, if the dream continues, it could well see a new generation of cricketers and fans rise as a power with a third World Cup triumph.