Starring Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone , Pankaj Tripathi
Directed by Kabir Khan
Good Lords! By the time the climactic photo-finish match at the posh Lords stadium unravels in all its historically astute glory, the audience is so invested in the film it feels like the entire slab of sports history has been effortlessly converted into the crisp currency of cinematic history.
You don’t really have to be a cricket fanatic to understand how important the 1983 World cup victory was for India and Indians. Even Mrs Indira Gandhi, then ruling country with iron hands, realized how vital it was for our boys to bring that Cup back.
Somewhere in the course of the undulating though well-balanced and authentic storytelling (script by Kabir Khan, Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan, Vasan Bala) the formidable Mrs G is heard telling her cowering cabinet, “Let there be a television set in every home to watch the World Cup so that the nation’s attention can be diverted from political issues.”
I don’t know how accurate these assumptions so nimbly knitted into Kabir Khan’s gamely yarn of the World Cup’s power and reach are. But the film makes you want to believe in its strikingly nationalist assumptions.
There is a sense of imminent urgency and unquestionable credibility cutting through the sports drama, as though to celebrate and mock the sports tropes at the same time.
We don’t really know if all the events so charmingly described in the film, leading up to the victory, actually happened. Even if some of this is conjectural creativity, there is absolutely no way one can question the narrative’s right to interpret sports history as it thinks right, as long as the final triumph is not diluted or compromised.
An unflinching propriety manned by masterstrokes of effortless candour and underscored by Julius Packium’s crowd-friendly background score, run through the saga bringing back to us the great 1983 victory with a vividness we have not experienced before in any sports drama. Of course, Ashutosh Gowariker’s Lagaan and Shimit Amin’s Chak De were great films delineating the complex relationship between sports and politics in a nation where every citizen is a potential score keeper if not a game player .
Kabir Khan cleverly kicks into India’s obsession with cricket and eventually turns an underdog saga into a triumphant tale unforeseen heroism. The casting of the cricketers, so crucial to the efficacy of the end-product, is almost impeccable. Jiva as Srikkant and Amy Wirk as Balwinder Sandhu are notably effective. Some of the other players specially Sunny Gavaskar and Sandeep Patil are not so well-played. Pankaj Tripathi as the team’s manager manages to be characteristically spot-on. But Deepika Padukone as Romi Kapil Dev is quite unnecessary.
What works wonderfully in the film’s favour is the team’s commitment to getting it right. The matches look authentic. Cameo appearances by Kapil Dev and Lala Amarnath do not appear gimmicky. No one is in this for attention. There is a sense of profound commitment underlining even the most crowdwooing moments, such as that recurring visual of a little boy with his father rooting for Kapil, or Boman Irani as a radio commentator sobbing at the end.
This is not a film to be taken lightly. It is relevant and historic and yet it succeeds in not being selfimportant. Standing tall at the apex of the drama is Kapil Dev, the affable desi captain of the team, so kind and yet a born leader.
I looked for Ranveer Singh in 83. But I couldn’t find him.