The story so far as the world knows it:
*That 83, the film on India’s World Cup victory, was to have originally starred Arjun Kapoor as Kapil Dev.
*That Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan, whose name features in the credits as one of the writers of 83, was to have directed the film. He was the writer-director who first met Kapil and his team, fleshed out the story, added several bits of fiction and wrote the screenplay way back in 2016.
*That it all began when Vishnuvardhan Induri (Founder-Chairperson of Celebrity Cricket League; producer of films like Thalaivii), now credited as one of the producers of 83, chased and got Kapil Dev on board for filming the World Cup story.
What the world has not seen so far:
The first and only visual of how Arjun Kapoor would have looked as Kapil Dev in his most triumphant moment.
In all his recent interviews, Kapil Dev has gamely talked of how it took five years for the story of 1983 to finally reach the audience. But what he diplomatically held back was that five years ago, it was a different actor-director team that had liaised with him and worked on the screenplay.
The inside story:
Known for his script sense, Arjun Kapoor had been bowled over by what was narrated to him when Sanjay Puran Singh and Vishnuvardhan had first approached him. Prepping had begun in right earnest and Lehren’s exclusive photograph is proof of it.
When he had gone to Arjun with the script, Sanjay Chauhan was already a National Award-winning director. In 2009, he had won the award for Best Debut Film for Lahore, a sports drama.
(Chauhan won the National Award once again in 2021 for Best Direction for the film Bahattar Hoorain. Up next is Akshay Kumar’s Gorkha for this intensely patriotic filmmaker.)
An excited Arjun is said to have taken the script to Aditya Chopra who was impressed but was busy completing Befikre.
Too restless to wait, the actor reportedly went to his ‘friends’ at Phantom Films (once partnered by Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane, Madhu Mantena and Vikas Bahl).
Little did Arjun realise that with this move, both he and director Sanjay Chauhan would soon be eased out of the film.
The film on the 1983 victory grew bigger. Many more producers came in to share Vishnuvardhan’s space. With Bajrangi Bhaijaan behind him, Kabir Khan, one of the biggest names in the business, was brought in as director. Ranveer Singh had also grown into a hugely bankable star and he came in to play Kapil Dev, India’s winning captain.
To Ranveer’s credit, he played with a straight bat and had a chat with his buddy, Arjun Kapoor before doing the film.
To the credit of both Kabir and Ranveer, they infused their own energy, talent and sensibilities into 83, making it one of the best-crafted films of 2021.
But in the bargain, the two men who’d stood at the starting line got left behind.
One gathers from those who’d heard the original script that like all directors do, Kabir Khan also added his own touches to it.
If inside sources are to be believed, a scene where the Pakistani army exhibits sportsmanly grace by promising the Indians on this side of the border that there’d be no firing on the day of the World Cup Finals, did not exist in the original. Our forces at the last post in Siachen who were super keen to catch the radio signals and hear the broadcast of the Finals, was a scene that was reportedly in the script. But Pakistan didn’t figure anywhere in our World Cup victory and, it is believed that in the fictionalised retelling too, the neighbouring country had no part to play in the original screenplay.
Indira Gandhi’s smart political move to have communal tensions eased by ensuring a live telecast of the World Cup Finals never really happened. Reportedly, this piece of fiction was cooked up by the original writer and his team to build up India’s enthusiasm for the game. But the visuals of the communal tension that showed only one community as ‘dara hua’ (frightened) did not exist on paper. That came from Kabir.
It’s also being whispered that the first screenplay had barely 10 to 20 per cent of cricket matches in the belief that India’s march towards victory could be creatively conveyed without expending screen time on the games. The original, say sources, had more of relationships and stories than cricket matches. It changed by the time the film hit the screens.
Whether these and other changes were for better or for worse, is a question that cannot ever have one definitive answer.