Kabir Khan explains why Team India’s original members had refused to see 83 until now.

The much-anticipated film 83 is about to hit theatres. The film, which commemorates India’s maiden World Cup victory in cricket in 1983, has been patiently awaiting its release as the country and the rest of the world dealt with a raging pandemic and two lockdowns. Director Kabir Khan’s nerves have faded over the years, leaving only an anticipation to see the film in theatres.

“We’ve been working on it for years as a labour of love.” “I can’t wait for everyone to see that come to life on screen,” adds the director of the film, which stars Ranveer Singh as Kapil Dev. In an exclusive interview with IndianExpress.com, the filmmaker discusses the difficulties of completing such a massive movie only to be plagued by crippling delays. He also discusses how Kapil’s Devils and the other performers in the film were cast, as well as the shooting experience.

There were many problems, but none of them were about doing homage to every detail. It’s a genuine narrative about what happened, but it’s incredible how each character contributed to the adventure. Everyone was able to participate in the enjoyment. I had to be certain that I got all the details right when recreating an event that is so legendary and profoundly ingrained in Indians’ collective consciousness. Everyone knows what happened in each of the matches, at least those above the age of 45. As a result, it was a responsibility to live up to that standard. We had to reconstruct everything from scratch, paying close attention to every last detail. Most essential, the most difficult task was recreating the feelings that the entire country experienced. Will we be able to make people cry happy tears as Ranveer Singh, who plays Kapil Dev, lifts the trophy on the Lord’s balcony?

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People have been debating the casting and how actors genuinely look the part since the film was revealed.

It took us around 18-20 months to finalise the cast from the first person to the last. Not only did they have to look alike physically, but they also have to know how to play the sport. They needed the talents because they were going to play cricket legends. To be honest, they had to pass the pitch test first, then the acting audition. Even after that, they were put on a two-month probationary period to assess how they performed. We’ve had to say no to a couple of guys after three months of instruction. On the route to developing what was good for the film, we crushed hearts. It was a lengthy casting procedure.

Kabir Khan
Kabir Khan

Then there was the matter of getting on international teams, which was another hurdle. On screen, we had actors representing the countries they were representing. To select the greatest matches, we held a five-week cricket cum casting workshop on the islands of the West Indies. You won’t believe how Malcolm Marshall and Gordon Greenidge’s sons ended up playing their fathers. They are clones of one other and have comparable styles. Clive Llyod’s son was also cast in the part of Joel Garner. I believe we were blessed in some way by the cricket gods. We had legends like Mohinder Amarnath, Sunil Gavaskar, and Clive Llyod on the set even while we were filming. How many movies can say that?

So, who was the easiest and most difficult to choose for you?

We probably won’t be able to pick one because each boy was portraying a living icon. It would never be simple for them, whether it was Ranveer, Tahir, Harrdy, Ammy, or anybody else. Each one went through a separate procedure. They also needed to understand not only the persona but also the style. After months of instruction, it’s simpler to turn actors into cricketers, but it’s nearly hard to get them to play like someone else. So it wasn’t only about Ranveer bowling well; it was also about him bowling like Kapil. I mean, Harrdy Sandhu has played for the under-19 squad and knows the game, but it took him a long time to learn how to play like Madan Lal. For all of them, I believe it has been an incredible adventure.

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Ranveer Singh has nothing to do with her casting. Yes, it is a topic of discussion today as a marketing campaign. It’s a real-life couple getting back together after a long separation. Even if Deepika wasn’t married to Ranveer, I would have gone to her. I’ve admired her for a long time, and she’s a terrific actor with a powerful presence. Romi Dev’s character doesn’t get much screen time, but it’s important. Romi’s enthusiasm was much appreciated. I realised when I first met Kapil and Romi a few years ago that he is incomplete without her. And if that’s the present mood, I’m sure it was the same a few years ago. Without her in Kapil Dev’s life in 1983, the trip would have been incomplete.
How did you guys deal with the long wait and uncertainty surrounding the release as a team?

When we went into lockdown, there were plenty of times of despair and frustration. We can’t complain, though, because the entire planet was suffering and everyone’s life was put on hold for more than a year. It was out of our hands. We are in a better place now that we are here, and if we behave safely and follow all protocols, we will be in a better place. Yes, we would have wanted to show the film when Covid-19 was no longer a threat. But, hey, that’s life, and we have to go on with it. We’re merely grateful that we’re finally sharing it so that the rest of the world can share in the excitement we felt while filming.

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