Some of the negative reviews for ‘Race 3’ felt personal to Saqib Saleem

’83,’ directed by Ranveer Singh, will feature Saqib Saleem. The actor discusses the impact of the negative Race 3 reviews, his preparation for 83, and his memories from the set.

Saqib Saleem, an actor, is gearing up to star in his first big-budget film in over three years. In 83, a film based on the 1983 World Cup, the actor will play Mohinder ‘Jimmy’ Amarnath, who was most recently seen in the critically panned ‘Race 3’. In 1983, the cricketer was named vice-captain of the team.

Saleem spoke candidly with Hindustan Times ahead of the film’s release, discussing the various challenges he faced while playing Mohinder and the impact of ‘Race 3’s critical failure.

Saqib Saleem

In an interview with Hindustan Times, the actor was asked how the negative reviews of Race 3 affected him, and he said, “I’ve always maintained that I’m in the movie as an actor, so when I go see a movie, I have no right to comment on how good or bad it is. It is up to people to say what they want and to make judgments about it. I can be harsh on myself, and I remember thinking to myself when that film was released and I saw it, ‘I’m very bad in the film.’ The reviews backed up this claim. When I read the reviews, I realised this was the first time I had received criticism for a performance. Some of those pieces were obnoxious and felt a little personal, so it did put me in a state of mind (where I wondered) if I even knew how to act. ‘Am I a good person, or am I a bad person?'”

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He goes on to say, “‘The usually reliable Saqib Saleem is restricted to adding bro after every dialogue and he’s hanging in the film,’ I recall reading in one review. Do you have any idea what I got out of that line? I removed the phrase ‘usually reliable,’ which led me to believe that ‘oh damn, people think I’m good.’ I just need to find a better role; I can’t afford to take things lightly, and I can’t keep doing things the same way.’ I began with films such as ‘Mujhse Fraaandship Karoge,’ ‘Mere Dad Ki Maruti,’ ‘Bombay Talkies,’ and ‘Hawaa Hawaai,’ where the characters I played were… In one film (Bombay Talkies), I played a homosexual man, and in the other, I played a skating instructor. Why am I attempting to maintain a cool demeanour? I’m an actor, so I need to find a role. So I think that phase helped me to get a better idea of where I want to go and what I want to do. So, there was a minor hiccup along the way, but I was soon back on track.

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“Every day was a challenge,” the actor said when asked about the difficulties he faced while playing Amarnath. I knew how to play cricket, of course. But I needed to play like Mohinder Amarnath, which meant I had to unlearn how I used to play cricket and learn a technique that would suit Mr Amarnath. Because there’s something called muscle memory, I felt like I was unlearning and learning at the same time. I used to play cricket in a certain way; I have a batting style that I’ve had for years and that has worked for me, so it’s become muscle memory. Every day is a challenge when I try to change it to something completely different from what I’m used to. But it was also the most exciting time of my life, and one of the most enriching experiences I’ve ever had.”

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When asked if he received any unusual advice from Amarnath, the former responds as follows:

“Mohinder Amarnath wore a red handkerchief all the time.” He was very specific about where he wanted it when batting and where he thought it should be when bowling. As a result, it was quite different. He was after these teeny-tiny things (to be incorporated correctly). He visited me in Mumbai and Dharamshala, I met him (again) in London, and he came to practise… As a result, he greatly aided me in understanding his mind and technique.”

When asked if he auditioned for Amarnath’s role or was considered for another, he replied, “I auditioned for Amarnath’s role.” “‘I remember thinking to myself when the film was announced, ‘okay, they’re making a film about the ’83 World Cup, who’s (playing) Jimmy Amarnath?’ He was the Man of the Match in the semi-finals and finals, and he’s the team’s vice-captain, which I thought would be a fun role to play. So I contacted Kabir (Khan) sir and asked if I could audition for the part. He enjoyed the test and wanted to see my cricketing ability, so I played and demonstrated, and that was the end of it. This was the only part in the movie that I wanted to play. Don’t get me wrong: everyone is a legend, but even before I read the script, I knew Mohinder Amarnath would play a pivotal role in the film”.

When it comes to his international debut plans, he says, “I’m saying let me go, but the flights aren’t taking off!” When flights resume, I’ll be the first to rush to Hollywood. However, I have yet to receive an offer.”

Did you all have any games on the sets after the shoot, aside from playing cricket for the camera?

We were in Dharamshala, and our coach Balwinder Singh Sandhu suddenly said, ‘Let’s play a game of gully cricket with a tennis ball.’ Everyone let down their guard, and everyone was acting normally. ‘Hey, you guys are falling out of character,’ (the crew) said when they saw us. No, no, you’ll have to settle for gully cricket. We only train seriously in order to remain in character.’ We did that in the beginning, but we played a lot of cricket. For about 45 days, we shot from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and before that, we trained every day for about eight to ten months. We’ve played a lot of cricket… We did try to play a match with the West Indies team (the on-screen team); they were a good team, and we were a decent team as well, but they were slightly better.

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The film ’83’ will be released on December 24th. While Saleem portrays Mohinder Amarnath, Ranveer Singh portrays Kapil Dev, the team’s captain at the time. Kabir Khan is the director of the film.

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