Warning: if you don’t want to know who won the 1983 Cricket World Cup before seeing “83” then stop reading here.
Behind-the-scenes sports documentary series weren’t a thing in 1983, so in 2021 director Kabir Khan attempts to fill the void with “83” – the fictionalised account of the Indian cricket team’s unexpected triumph in the World Cup. What could have been a trite, standard underdog-sports-team-made-good pic is boosted by a big budget, an epic canvas and meticulous casting – and almost brought undone by over-the-top patriotism, with the climax buried beneath a loud and bombastic musical score.
The undoubted highlight of the film comes with the expertly produced action scenes re-creating India’s eight matches in the World Cup, combining highly choreographed match play featuring lookalike actors, blended with original television footage. A fine cast led by Ranveer Singh in the central role of Indian captain Kapil Dev does very well to capture the flavour of dressing-room shenanigans and tensions although the comedy dialogue is a little too obvious at times. A cameo appearance by the present-day Mohinder Amarnath playing his father Lala is a poignant and inspired piece of casting. The scenes of a young Sachin Tendulkar watching the final felt contrived and unnecessary.
I didn’t come into the screening of “83” with high expectations, and for those people with no interest in cricket there is simply too much detail to make it worthwhile for them. But for Indian cricket fans needing a dose of patriotism, this film will do its trick for its 162 minutes running time. For the rest of us who love cricket it is the meticulous action scenes that make “83” worthwhile.
My rating: 8/10