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83 review: Rousing recreation of India’s first big cricket win, led by the versatile Ranveer Singh

Release Date: 24 Dec 2021 / Rated: U / 02hr 42min

Read in: Hindi

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Sonal Pandya

Kabir Khan’s sports drama takes you through a range of emotions as it paints the picture of an unlikely team of underdogs attaining glory.

The story of the Indian cricket team heading into the 1983 World Cup as underdogs overlooked by everyone, including their own governing body, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), could not have been scripted better. In a way, this was a tale made for the big screen.

Even though we know the final outcome going in, threads of tension have been woven into the story by writer-director Kabir Khan and screenwriters Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan and Vasan Bala. The path to India’s maiden victory is shown in all its nostalgic glory, as the team arrives in England to start its campaign.

From the first match where the Indians defeat the formidable West Indies, two-time defending champions, to the final where they encounter them again, the sports drama will make you laugh, cheer and maybe even shed a tear or two. Skipper Kapil Dev (Ranveer Singh) and team manager PR Man Singh (the inimitable Pankaj Tripathi) harbour a quiet belief in their team members and their abilities, ensuring that they give it their all when they get on the field.

The odds were not great going in; the Windies, with star player Viv Richards, had never lost a World Cup match and India had never won one. But things were about to change. The film's stirring turning point comes from the now-legendary match versus Zimbabwe at Royal Tunbridge Wells on 18 June 1983 which was never televised. The record-breaking knock of 175 not out by Kapil Dev is highly emotional and becomes part of Indian cricketing lore as the tide turns for the team.

Ranveer Singh essaying Kapil Dev's famous Natraj shot

Besides Ranveer Singh channelling Kapil Dev like the pro he is, the actors who make up the rest of the historic squad seamlessly slip into character. Jiiva as Krishnamachari Srikkanth, Saqib Saleem as vice-captain Mohinder Amarnath, Tahir Raj Bhasin as Sunil Gavaskar, Harrdy Sandhu as Madan Lal, Ammy Virk as Balwinder Singh Sandhu and Jatin Sarna as the late Yashpal Sharma — to whom the film is dedicated — all step up to contribute to the team’s victories. Jiiva, Virk and Sarna also contribute to the film’s lighter moments.

Khan also makes it a point to highlight the camaraderie and friendship among the teammates, which is punctuated nicely by the captain and manager’s notes of encouragement before and after each match. The filmmaker and the various departments have worked hard to ensure that they are as accurate as possible.

Producer Deepika Padukone is radiant as Kapil Dev’s better half Romi, who arrives in the UK to lend support and cheer on her husband as the cricketers continue winning. The scenes between real-life couple Ranveer and Padukone are completely natural, even as they emulate another iconic pair. Boman Irani, Neena Gupta and Wamiqa Gabbi all have small but memorable parts. Kudos to the casting team for ensuring that every role, including those of the opposing side, adds to the overall experience of the film.

The real Sandhu is credited as associate director of the cricket segments; there are a few clever cameos by the original team that will receive loud cheers. The action plays out smoothly on screen and you don’t notice the film's long runtime of two hours 42 minutes.

This retelling pays attention to all details, big and small, and cricket fans will love the little nods here and there, even those pointing to the direction in which the game would head. Editor Nitin Baid intercuts the reel and real action, using actual photographs and footage, which drives home how much research the makers have carried out.

There are moments revolving around Indian fans glued to the radio and television, both in England and back home in India, which can seem both exaggerated and sappy. But there is something genuine about these moments, which hark back to simpler times without the 24x7 news cycles and social media updates. In light of the time we have been having since the COVID-19 pandemic reared its ugly head, these scenes of togetherness, as Indians cheering for the national team, seem sorely needed.

And when Pritam’s music kicks in, it gets the viewer right in the feels. Honestly, this is a cinematic experience not to be missed. This reviewer wouldn't be surprised if Khan’s rousing drama picks up all the accolades next year. Make sure to sit through the credits.

83 is being released in theatres on Friday 24 December.