Kabir Khan’s Ranveer Singh-starrer ’83’ has been in the making for a long time. The film was initially announced in mid-July 2016, the same year that saw a flurry of cricket biopics such as Tony D’Souza ‘Azhar’ and Neeraj Pandey’s ‘M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story’.
It all started with members of the legendary squad meeting at a suburban hotel in Mumbai to mark the anniversary of the celebrated win.
The 1983 team’s skipper, Kapil Dev, along with several other members of the squad, handed over the film after signing an MoU with Phantom Films, co-owned by Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane, Vikas Bahl and Madhu Mantena. The film, 83 then went into scripting with director and screenwriter Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan taking up the onus of writing.
83, which was slated to release in 2017, encountered several delays during its journey.
Sanjay, who bagged the National Film Award for Best Direction for ‘Bahattar Hoorain’, sketched the foundation of the script, which was then handed over to Vasan Bala (‘Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota’, 2019).
“The foundation of the film was laid by Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan. It came to me as his baby,” Bala informed IANS. A close associate of Anurag Kashyap, Bala then added more flavours to the script in terms of perspective. “I worked on Sanjay’s base screenplay, added my perspective and tone to it,” the director-writer added.
On October 5, 2018, Phantom Films was dissolved a day before #MeToo allegations against one of its founding members, Vikas Bahl, by one of the women crew members, surfaced. The alleged incident happened during the early hours of May 5, 2015 after a party in a Goa hotel, ahead of Kashyap’s ‘Bombay Velvet’ release.
After the dismantling of Phantom Films, Reliance Entertainment, which had acquired a 50 per cent stake in Phantom, took the film forward.
Bala completed the script and shared it with Kabir Khan, who then started work on the mammoth project. “And then I handed it over to Kabir Khan and his team. They took it and carried it to greater heights,” Bala remembers.
The next movement in the ’83’ clockwork was the casting. Kabir got in touch with the best in the business, Mukesh Chhabra, who then embarked on the journey to cast for the film.
For Chhabra, “the idea behind casting was that the entire country should connect with each character”. The casting director had earlier told IANS: “This film took me more than a year to cast because there were a lot of things that we needed with regards to the actors. They needed to know how to play cricket, and their language and their culture had to match with the corresponding characters.”
Several workshops were organised for the players to develop an understanding of their characters, the iconic shots of the cricketing legends and the team spirit. Chhabra set up a camp where actors interacted with actual players.
Once the pre-production and casting was locked, the film’s crew swiftly slipped into production mode with principal photography starting on June 5, 2019. Along the way, Deepika Padukone, who plays Kapil Dev’s wife Romi, came onboard as co-producer along with Kabir Khan, Sajid Nadiadwala and Vishnuvardhan Induri.
The film was shot in and around England for three months with a brief schedule in India as well. It was eventually wrapped on October 7, 2019.
But then came the first wave of the pandemic, followed soon by the second. The contagion gripped major parts of the world, pushing nations into lockdowns. Showbiz suffered like never before, as theatres shut down, forcing the film’s crew to wait for almost two years before seeing the light of day.
The moment arrived on December 22, when the film was first unveiled at a star-studded screening in Mumbai, where practically the entire Bollywood showed up to render support to the big-ticket release.
With the film garnering a positive response from metro audiences, Vasan is a happy man. “Happy to see it release and people enjoy it,” he said, signing off.