’83 the movie: The sons also rise
Perhaps you have heard of Chirag Patil, the 33-year old actor of Marathi films and TV serials. Or perhaps you haven’t. But you certainly will hear and see Patil in director Kabir Khan’s 83—the much-awaited film starring Ranveer Singh as Kapil Dev—where he plays the role of one of the Indian cricketers. It helped that Patil had played a little cricket while growing up, until his father dashed his dreams by pointing out that he did not have what it takes to make cricket a career. It also helped, both his career-choice and the upcoming movie, that his father is Sandeep Patil—the man he will be playing in 83.
“I don’t look like my father as much as my younger brother does. But my mannerisms are exactly like his—the way I talk and the way I walk,” says Patil, speaking about what it took to get into the World Cup hero’s shoes. “Easier, compared to some of the others who had to learn the mannerisms from scratch. For example, Ranveer spent some 10 days in Kapil Dev’s house to imbibe his hand gestures and his way of speaking and all that. For me the biggest challenge was the cricket. The mannerisms came naturally.”
This was the case not just for Patil, but for at least a few of the actors playing West Indies’ cricketers. Carl Greenidge plays his father Gordon Greenidge, while Mali Marshall does just that for his late, great father, the spearhead Malcolm Marshall. While West Indies’ captain Clive Lloyd too has a son who features in Khan’s movie, he does not play his father. Jason Lloyd, thanks to his 6’8” frame, plays the fast bowler Joel Garner, while Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s son plays Larry Gomes.
Most of these men were either chosen for their resemblance, cricketing skill or acting chops. Patil was the only one chosen for all three.
“The cricket was still difficult. I wanted to get my father’s stance absolutely right. He used to stand with one shoulder lower than the other and his stance was open. While shooting, that stance really took a toll on my shoulders and spine,” says Patil. “It made me sign up for a two-month therapy for my back.”
Patil wasn’t yet born when his father won the 1983 World Cup, but Carl Greenidge was when his father lost a World Cup for the only time. He was five years old and doesn’t remember much. But his legendary batsman father inspired him enough to take up cricket for a living—first as a County player and then as the head of cricket at a private school in northeast England.
“It helps to have a little background in cricket to play such roles,” says Carl, whose old network in cricket circles also helped Khan’s casting director by finding quite a few of the men to play the West Indies greats. “I got Jason, Clive Lloyd’s son, on board,” Carl says, “They were looking for a tall guy, 6’ 8”, to play Joel Garner. I knew he would be perfect for the role.”
Carl himself effortlessly slipped into the role of his father, with his cricket skills and his resemblance to the former opener. “I can’t get past how much we look alike these days. I noticed more of the resemblance as I got older,” says Carl. “Apart from that the mannerisms helped. I’ve noticed that I also sound a lot like my father did in those days.”
Mali Marshall’s great challenge came in imitating his father’s famous sprint to the crease. “But he is also a cricketer, so he could adjust faster,” says Patil, whose greatest challenge was to recreate his father’s greatest moment of the World Cup—the unbeaten 51 against hosts England in the Manchester semi-final.
“We took three or four days to shoot it,’ Patil says. “I didn’t have the liberty to improvise. The footage of my father’s eight boundaries and how he went after Bob Willis is available so we had to make it seem as close to the original footage as possible. And that was a real challenge.”
The production crew of 83 could’ve taken creative liberties with an innings that is still considered the turning point of India’s campaign—Kapil Dev’s 175 versus Zimbabwe at Tunbridge Wells. This match, after all, wasn’t telecast because of the infamous BBC strike that left the cricket world poorer of one of the all-time great ODI innings. But with fast bowler Balwinder Singh Sandhu on board as a cricket consultant for the film, director Khan and his crew had little choice but to be as accurate as possible.
Thirty seven years ago, Sandhu’s wicket of Greenidge gave his team-mates belief that they could defend 183 runs against the mighty West Indies.
Over the last year, the same Sandhu gave a bunch of actors and technicians the confidence that they could indeed recreate India’s first World Cup winning campaign. And this Sandhu did with meticulous attention to detail.
“Back in 1983, only the West Indians were expressive with their celebrations. So we ensured when the actors shot the Indian celebration scenes, there was no fist-pumping or high-fives or hugs. I would remind them to take it easy in these scenes for all matches except the final, where we had started expressing ourselves,” says Sandhu.
Sandhu’s eye for detail and impressive memory helped. In the rare occasion where neither his recall nor the available footage helped, Sandhu would turn to his cherished WhatsApp group called ‘Champions Forever’—which has all the 15 squad members of India’s World Cup winning squad of ’83. “If I needed to check on any information during the shoot, I used to ask in the group. And someone would come up with the answer. If none of them did, I would always ask our manager PR Man Singh. He would remember,” says Sandhu.
At 81, Man Singh is the oldest member of the unit and his role is played by the actor Pankaj Tripathi.
“I pray to god everyday that the lockdown should end quickly so I can see this movie along with the rest of the group,” says Man Singh. Apart from Sandhu, who has also worked on the film as an associate director (cricket), no one else from the squad has seen as much as a teaser from the film.
“In fact, we were all going to gather in Mumbai for the launch of the trailer on March 11. But then because of pandemic all those plans had to be postponed,” says Man Singh.
It wasn’t just the trailer of 83 that was ultimately affected—the release of the film, set for April 10, has been postponed indefinitely, leaving the likes of Man Singh guessing at when they would get to watch their on-screen avatars.
“I am told by the actor who plays me, Pankaj Tripathi, that I have a pivotal role in the film,” says Man Singh. He has to, mainly because Man Singh was responsible for all administrative duties of the India team, everything from being the liaison officer to their mentor.
Were the makers of the film tempted to release 83 on the OTT platforms during the lockdown, given the eyeballs a show like The Last Dance received on Netflix? “No, not at all. There is no panic for us,” says Sandhu. “Everyone knows this story, so there is no rush. The value of the film lies in how it has been shot. We can afford to wait for a while before it is released.”
Sandhu remembers getting quite emotional after the winning moment was shot, all these years later. “As soon as the director called cut I had to walk away from all of them. It was very overwhelming to recreate that,” says Sandhu.
Meanwhile, the children of the cricketers associated with this movie shared a similar experience when they were shooting at Lord’s.
“On the final day of the shoot, a few of us got together for a photograph we will never forget,” says Patil. “We were Amiya Dev, Kapil’s daughter who is the assistant director, Carl, Mali, Jason and I. At Lord’s we posed with the real trophy that our fathers had played for all those years ago.”