83 Hindi Movie
Kabir Khan's unabashedly old-school 83 is a documentary-like rendition of India's triumphant 1983 Cricket World Cup campaign. This film wastes no time getting into the cricket field, capturing each moment in the World Cup that will constitute a highlights package. Writer-director Kabir Khan is not interested in exploring the politics in Indian cricket or the bureaucracy around the game in India. The only few pre-tournament pieces of information that Khan gives us concern how the team is viewed as an underdog. After all, these are Kapil's Devils.
The Indian cricket board members laugh off the prospect of India making an impression in the tournament. The British media ridicules the quality of the team. A British commentator repeatedly reminds us of the fact that India only beat a team of amateurs in East Africa in the two previous editions of the tournament.
Khan seems aware that keen followers of the game know the small conflicts in the team, like the one between Kapil and Sunil Gavaskar, all too well. So, it initially appears a good idea to focus only on the cricket part. But here is the issue: the cricket portions in the movie all appear a bit too artificial. Khan's storytelling does not help in that he gives us a piece of information verbally and then shows how that event unfolds.
It does not help that 83 is based on a real event that a keen follower of the game, like me, knows all too well. For instance, I know that Balwinder Sandhu bowled the delivery that swung back into Gordon Greenidge's off-stump. So, when the movie tells us what Sandhu is going to do before the action, it robs us of whatever little suspense it has. It is like watching a courtroom drama where the attorneys discuss their plan to win an argument and then does it.
There is also a scene where India's players watch the West Indian fast bowlers train. As each of those fast bowlers warms up, the Indian players discuss how quick they are. Surely, the Indian players must have had a quiet sense of appreciation for the opposition, but would they have spent their time watching the other players train and gushing over their talents?
You do not need a movie to go into such detail. It only reduces the effectiveness of a later scene where Malcolm Marshall delivers Vengsarkar a brutal bouncer that sends the Indian batter to the hospital and then sidelines him for the rest of the tournament. The action is well captured in the movie, but the commentary that preceded it kind of robs us of the suspense in it.
As for the cricket portions, 83 seems a bit too simulated and staged for me. You do not watch a cricket match in slow motion or with so much editing. You watch it live. So, when the makers do a lot of editing to make up for the challenges in creating a cricket match, it seems too much. Sometimes, cricket does not lend itself well to the big screen, so it is understandable that the makers need cinematic elements to capture cricketing moments. A good example of slow-motion done well here is the moment that recreates the Kapil Dev running catch to dismiss Viv Richards. But most of the time, the cinematic elements give us the impression that we are watching only a simulated cricket match.
Because 83 is preoccupied with documenting the World Cup campaign, the movie has little dramatic heft. The drama seems flat for a good part, and even as the intentions are noble, there is no escaping the over the top treatment of the real-life story. It is not a movie for an audience that prefers subtlety. There is also some historical inaccuracy here. For instance, the movie says England's captain Tony Greig used the racist word grovel about the Australian team in the ODI World Cup, but it happened before a bilateral series between England and the West Indies. The film contains too many reaction shots as well. You might feel that I am nitpicking here, but these are more than minor mistakes for a follower of cricket like me.
Now, that is not to say that 83 is an unwatchable film. It has its merits, including outstanding performances. Ranveer Singh immortalizes Kapil Dev on-screen with a splendid performance. Singh gets all the details right in the movie, including Kapil's behavior, walk, bowling action and broken English. He may not always look physically competent enough to be a cricketer but captures the essence of what makes the Indian captain special. Some of the pieces of information about Dev, the person and the cricketer, are well woven into the script. The other actors are also excellent in their roles. I particularly liked Tahir Bhasin as Sunil Gavaskar, Jiiva as Kris Srikanth, Jatin Sarna as Yashpal Sharma, and Pankaj Tripathi as the team's PR Man Singh. The best moments in the movie are the casual, off-field interactions between these characters.