India’s fairytale World Cup final win against the West Indies is set to be celebrated in a new feature film based on the 1983 cricket World Cup. The movie, to be called 83, had been scheduled for release on April 10 before the coronavirus pandemic intervened.
“Before all this (the film), I looked at my dad as my father and his former team-mates as his friends. But only after acting in the ’83 movie did I fully understand the sheer enormity of their achievement and the rarity of the feat,” says Chirag Patil, who plays his father and former India cricketer, Sandeep.
“The challenge was to try and imbibe my dad’s attitude. He had a very carefree approach, both on and off the field. So, to try and emulate that and his walk, we did refer to a lot of old footage. That said, being his son, a lot of it came naturally to me,” Chirag said.
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Sandeep Patil finished the tournament with 216 runs in eight innings at an average of 30.85 and a strike-rate of 90.00. In the final at Lord’s, he was caught for 27 off Joel Garner. India was bowled out for 183 in 54.4 overs, kept afloat only by slim hopes of what, at the time, looked like an unlikely fightback. But Clive Lloyd’s team was then skittled for 140 in 52 overs as Kapil Dev’s India created history on that glorious summer in 1983.
“We got permission from the Lord’s museum to use the actual 83 trophy in the film. So, just holding that cup was surreal,” revealed Chirag.
“Not just at Lord’s, we also shot at the Oval, Tunbridge Wells... Great stories, great memories and a great experience. Everyone in my family had been to London. My childhood dream was to go there for work one day and it came true thanks to this movie.
“We had a team event. We wanted to get the guys together, just have a team-bonding session in Dharamsala before leaving for England. We had a great time over there. That’s where we became good friends and the camaraderie helped when we began shooting.”
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Chirag grew up in a cricket-loving household. And since his father played for India, he “used to keep meeting all the greats of the game like Kapil Dev” at house parties and outdoor events. Chirag feels playing his father’s part in the movie has got its advantages and disadvantages. “My mannerisms are similar to my father’s, so that was my advantage. But I had never played cricket before, so at least eight months of training went into getting the basics right,” he said.
Chirag used to train for four hours every day, two hours in the morning with the 83 cast under the supervision of Balwinder Sandhu and two in the evening on his own, at Chandrakant Pandit’s cricket academy in Andheri, Mumbai. “I still remember, during the early days of the shoot, Kabir Sir (83 director Kabir Khan) compared my stance to my dad’s, and it was very similar. But the problem was I just couldn’t put bat to ball (laughs)! So yeah, it took me a while, but I got my head around it.”
The disadvantage, Chirag feels, is the obvious comparison to his father. “Every shot I play on the screen will be compared to my father’s. And I hope I don’t let him down. You know, all these years, he was just my father, but having played him in the movie, I was able to fully grasp just how big a name he was in Indian cricket and you want to do complete justice to your father’s achievements.”
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A pleasant surprise
Chirag has been acting in Marathi movies for the last 10 years, but never dreamt of being part of such a “massive project.” The 33-year-old narrates an interesting story behind the casting for 83. “So when they announced the movie in 2017, I tagged along with my father to the film launch where we had lunch with Kabir Sir. Neither I nor my father suggested my name for the role,” he said.
“But two months later, I got a call from Kabir Sir asking me to come and audition for the movie. When I went to the set, instead of giving me a script, they gave me a bat and a ball. And when they asked to me play cricket in the audition, I was like, ‘ Ab toh pakka role nahi milega! ’
“But later, I got a call from Kabir Sir, who said that I was the right guy for the role and that’s how it all began. Also, Balwinder Sir happened to tell Kabir Sir that Sandeep Patil’s son is an actor, so why don’t we try him? That helped, too! I was the second person to be finalised for the movie after Ranveer Singh.”
Asked if he has developed an interest in cricket post-shooting, Chirag said in jest: “I think I’ve played enough cricket to last a lifetime (laughs)!”