’83' director Kabir Khan
’83' director Kabir Khan

From the gritty drama Kabul Express, New York to action thrillers like Ek Tha Tiger, Phantom, and the heart-warming Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Kabir Khan has helmed several critically-acclaimed and commercial hits. While the filmmaker has tried his hands at different genres, he is now set to explore the world of cricket through his sports drama ’83. Starring Ranveer Singh in the lead role, the film is based on the life of cricket legend Kapil Dev and India’s 1983 World Cup win. Here he opens up about directing and casting for the movie, and more. Excerpts from the interview:

What made you cast Ranveer Singh as Kapil Dev? Was there a pre-prep involved?

Both of them are fitness enthusiasts. Kapil sir loves playing Golf. But, I think it was those two weeks we spent with Kapil Dev that made all the difference to the film, especially for Ranveer. Mr Gaikwad, who has done the look for the film, is responsible for making Ranveer look like Kapil Dev. We worked hard, in terms of make-up, expressions, and in those 10-14 days Ranveer really caught on. He held on to the expressions. I believe it’s about getting the expressions right, something I told Ranveer right before the filming commenced.

How did you manage to make Ranveer look like Kapil Dev?

It’s a very difficult task, because what happens is, specially when its peculiar accent, the danger with something like that is that you  can easily make it caricaturish, and that was big trap for us — do we fall in that trap and end up caricaturing Kapil Dev? I told Ranveer that it’s not a look-alike contest, and it’s not about how you look like Kapil Dev. It’s about you taking on the persona... something that Ranveer has succeeded in doing. As a director, I could only observe and comment if it was right or wrong. But, the process of getting in the character was totally Ranveer.

What was your experience of shooting with Ranveer Singh?

As an actor, Ranveer loves the process of getting into a character; he is not happy if it’s a character he can’t do much about, and involves him just going to the set. He gets completely immersed in the project… He eats, breathes, and sleeps in that character. Everybody took on the mantle of the character they were representing quite well. And, in a way, Ranveer truly became the captain of that team.

Was it difficult to cast for the film?

Yes. We had so many actors playing so many different characters, and to make them look like the characters, and make them play cricket like professionals was a difficult task. Ranveer, of course, was a perfect fit for the character of Kapil Dev. Tahir Raj Bhasin is an experienced actor, who steps in Sunil Gavaskar’s shoes; then there’s the talented Saqib Saleem playing two-time ‘Man of the Match’ winner Mohinder Amarnath; Ammy Cirk is the World Cup hero, Balwinder Singh Sandhu; cinematographer Jeeva plays the swashbuckling batting star Krishnamachari Srikanth, and Pankaj Tripathi plays the manager of the team, PR Man Singh.

We also have some new actors like Chirag Patil, who steps in as Sandeep Patil (his real-life father), Adinath Kothare plays Dilip Vengsarkar, Sahil Khattar as wicket-keeper Syed Kirmani, Jatin Sarna plays Yashpal Sharma, Dinker Sarna is offspinner, batsman Kirti Azad, Nishant Dahiya plays the ever reliable all-rounder Roger Binny, Dhairya Karwa plays the lanky spinner and batsman Ravi Shastri, and R Badree as Sunil Valson, the bowler who didn’t get any opportunity to play in the World Cup. Boman Irani plays the dashing former opener Farokh Engineer. And, co-producer of the film, Deepika Padukone, steps in as Romi Dev, Kapil Dev’s wife.

The cast is much more than these characters and can be compared to an international production. The music by Preetam Chakraborty is another highlight of the film, as is the background score by Julius Packiam.

Are you upset with the delay in the release of the film due to the pandemic?

No. ’83 is a rare story. I strongly feel that you don’t choose stories, stories choose you! Why for the last 37 years was the story not made? It was staring right at us...the greatest sporting triumph for India ever. But, it waited 37 years for me, for whatever reason, and I’m really glad I took it. It’s a once in a lifetime story, and it’s been designed for the big screen. We were sure that for ’83, every cinema hall will become a stadium on it releases. So, I don’t want to rob myself and the audience of that experience. We are patient people, we’ll sit, we’ll wait, nothing’s gonna change! I was offered deals on OTT, but I refrained from it, and am waiting for the lockdown to subside and looking at an early 2021 release.

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