The Kabir Khan-directed ’83, featuring Ranveer Singh as former Indian cricket captain Kapil Dev, was all set for an April 10 unveiling. However, theatres across the country had to down shutters due to the lockdown brought on by coronavirus. The sport-drama chronicles Indian cricket team’s historic World Cup win. “It’s the greatest underdog story ever because before 1983, India had won just one match in World Cup history, and that too against East Africa. So, to go on and defeat West Indies, a team which had never lost a World Cup match till then was a great achievement,” points out the filmmaker, quick to add that it is also an amazing story of the human will’s triumph. “You can replace cricket with kabaddi and it would still hold weight.”
Kabir reveals that Krishnamachari Srikkanth had tied the knot in March 1983, about three months before the World Cup. As soon as he learnt that the team had been selected for the tournament, he planned a trip to the US. “Srikkanth, along with six other players, was all set to fly out as soon as the group stage ended, confident that India would be knocked out of the contention soon. All seven had booked their tickets from Mumbai to New York via London. In Srikkanth’s words, ‘We will play the World Cup on the way to a holiday in the US.’ Nobody, including the team, believed that we had a chance of making it to the semis, let alone the finals and lift the trophy,” Kabir recounts. However, once their winning streak started, the players began to cancel their tickets, one by one. Kapil Dev gave them hope with his conviction that they could be world champions, with tables turning after each win.
In the finals at Lord’s, after Sunil Gavaskar was out for two, Srikkanth, who had opened with him, stitched a good partnership with Mohinder Amarnath, taking India past the 50-run mark before losing his wicket to Malcolm Marshall for an aggressive 38 (off 57 balls, an impressive feat at the time) , that included seven boundaries and one memorable on-theknees square drive off Andy Roberts. As India was approaching the 100-run mark, Amarnath lost his wicket to a beauty from Holding for 26 runs, but went on to orchestrate India’s win with an incredible spell of three wickets for 12 runs in seven overs. After being bowled out for a paltry 183 in 54.4 overs, India skittled out Clive Lloyd’s team for 140 in 52 overs in their first World Cup final.
For Kabir, it was difficult to incorporate all these behind-the-scenes stories into the screenplay. “I had 100 fantastic stories and I could pick only 25 from the mountain of material I had with me. That’s the reason it took me close to a year-and-a-half to finalise the script,” he explains, saying the most difficult process was to limit the number of stories he could tell. “The film is not just from the players’ point of view, but also that of the commentators and the spectators. There are several layers.”
With the lockdown continuing even after 45 days and the number of cases mounting, there is still a lot of uncertainty around the film’s theatrical release. While there is talk of a direct-to-digital release with a global streaming major reportedly offering the makers an unheard-of sum, Shibasish Sarkar, who is producing ’83 with Sajid Nadiadwala, Vishnu Induri, Madhu Mantena, and Deepika Padukone, had confirmed to Mirror (April 14) that ’83 will be among the first films to arrive once normalcy returns and cinema halls open.