'83' Is One Of The Films That Will Define Me: Kabir Khan

Atanu Roy: His film '83' has enthralled the whole of India. From the general audience to the critics, everyone said, 'outstanding'. However, the third wave of Covid has caused a lot of damage to the films business. The Ranveer Singh starrer ensemble cast film got released on December 24 Besides thanking the audience and critics, director Kabir Khan bangs film trade analysts. In a telephonic conversation, he said that there are many good and bad things to be said and some points need to be clarified:

Q: Kabir, you were a 15-year-old teenager when India won the World Cup in 1983. You enjoyed that moment of victory yourself. How difficult was it to recreate that 'first-hand experience'? Is being honest with yourself the biggest challenge here?

Kabir: Absolutely true. Everyone asks me what I felt was the most challenging part to do in making this film. But this seems to me to be the most challenging. Some say it's casting, some say it's to train the actors or something more. I would say, all of this goes well. There is a team for that. There is a technique, behind which there is a lot of research. None of this, however, I felt is a problem. The most challenging thing was what I felt 39 years ago, how I will make people experience that feeling again. That same feeling but I have to make it new. I have to recreate that joy, that euphoria of people all over India. That was the biggest challenge.

Q: You took the challenge. Then?

Kabir: Now I am very happy that we managed to achieve that. When people started saying that they cried in the auditorium, rejoiced like sitting in the field, blew whistles, these gave me so much joy.

Q: Kabir, what is your definition of a good film?

Kabir: A good film means that when a filmmaker can convey exactly what he wants to and the way he wants to. To me, that is the definition of a good film. I will add a very significant thing. If the emotion that a filmmaker conveys to his audience has been lingering in his mind for a long time then it makes a good film stand out from the rest. The box office of a film changes every Friday, but how long a film stays in people's minds is the mark of a good film.

Q: How do your audiences react after seeing '83'?

Kabir: The kind of reaction we got for '83' made me very happy. People have been able to connect with the film in a very emotional way. Even those who do not watch cricket in that way can connect with the film. They said that. I think people almost forgot about what happened in '83. The film has rekindled all the memories in their minds.

Q: What kind of response did you get from the World Cup-winning team members of '83?

Kabir: Everyone from the '83 team watched the film together. An emotional place is created when they see the story of their life on screen. At the same time, the way they connected with the film, rejoiced, hug each other while watching the film, means that they were getting back those moments. That was a rewarding moment for me. After watching the film, they said that they will always watch the film together, not separately. Since then, they have probably seen the film four-five times already. Kapil Sir, Chika Sir, Kirti Azad Sir still message me every day. Many messages that they receive, forward to me.

Q: Ranveer Singh is a superstar. Yet, during the screening, we always saw Kapil Dev on screen. It's nothing but magical. Was it a daunting task for both you and Ranveer?

Kabir: We had to go through a long process for this. And you are right, the balanced performance that Ranveer has delivered is truly impeccable. In many cases when a character is developed keeping a gigantic person in mind, the performance becomes a bit mimic type. I told Ranveer at first that we are not participating in a look-alike contest. I want to adopt the personality of Kapil Dev Sir. Once that is done, everything else will look the same. That is exactly what Ranveer did.

Q: And makeup?

Kabir: Since it was a matter of playing cricket for 10-12 hours, we did not put on prosthetic makeup for Ranveer. Even after that, people are saying that we have seen Kapil Dev on screen only, not Ranveer. This is entirely Ranveer's craft. The way he has adopted everything, the way Kapil Sir speaks, his accents, expressions, made it possible.

Even Azad Sir once told me that when he saw the trailer, he looked at Ranveer's profile and thought that we have found some archival footage. Because seeing Ranveer, Azad Sir thought that his 'Kaptaan' was sitting. I think it's a lifetime compliment for Ranveer. Legendary cricketers like Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli tweeted that while watching the film they felt like they were seeing Kapil Dev on screen.

Q: You always wanted the film to be released on the big screen. Was it the wrong time to release the film after two years of being stuck?

Kabir: Look, no matter how much you plan, Covid Pandemic is such an event that no plan seems to work. We hold the film for two years so that when the film is released, people can at least go to the theatre to experience it. Then when we released the film, came the third wave. The exaggeration began the day before our release. On the day of release, 6,000 people were affected. Within 10 days that number exceeded 1 lakh. As a result, some states imposed night curfews on the first day. The night shows got cancelled. On the fourth day, all the shows were stalled in Delhi and then Haryana as well.

Q: So there rises a problem in reaching out to people?

Kabir: Absolutely. Absolutely right. Because, in the time of the pandemic, many kinds of fears work in the human mind naturally. Then there are the restrictions at different places. In most places, the theatre has to be run with 50% of the audience and even less somewhere. In some of the places, there are two shows throughout the day, but no shows in the evening.

A historic pandemic is underway. People can't go to the theatre. I am still getting the message that many people can't go even if they want to because there are old parents at home. There is nothing to do. But reaching out to people is not happening. And I can't even complain about this.

Q. So, you don't have any complaints about anything?

Kabir: My problem is elsewhere. Those who are 'trade analysts' in our country are pretending that there is no such thing as Covid. There is no mention of Covid anywhere when they are reporting on '83'. They are just saying that the collection of such a day did not go well. But they does not say for once that the collection of this day was not right because the theatres were closed in three states on this day, the theatres had to be run with 50% audiences in some places, some shows were cancelled. Or a maximum of 140,000 people have been infected on this day. There is no reference to these words.

One thing I would like to ask these analysts who are comparing '83' with other films. Which of the films you are comparing with is stuck in a situation like '83? They are not looking at the situation, they are not even understanding the totality of the scenario. They are just counting the numbers and pretending that there is no such thing as Covid in the heart of the earth.

Q: And now every second person is getting affected ...

Kabir: Absolutely. And then when you look at the reports, it seems that everything is going perfectly well in the world, only the numbers for this film is coming low.

Q: Being one of the most anticipated films, what do you think, why is this happening?

Kabir: I don't understand why these things are happening. Maybe some people think like this. Maybe, this could be an agenda. I really can't say, can't guess. Otherwise, film trade analysts are film illiterate. Only the numbers get into their heads.

Everybody in the country today knows that a historical pandemic is going on and people are being attacked all over the country at a deadly rate. We've released the film, then Omicron exploded. After that, no film came. There is a reason why the release of one film after another is being postponed. It feels really bad when it is said that everything is fine, just that the collection of '83' is not right. It's such a clear case that '83' is the extreme victim of the Third Wave of Covid. Now, I don't understand what these are, whether it is an agenda or lack of understanding. Somehow it may even show the level of our trade analysis.

Q: In many cases, it has been seen that after the release of an extremely beautiful film, that does not go well at the box office. That being said, that film is far ahead of its time. What's your take on this?

Kabir: Such incidents do happen. But the problem is that no one is saying that even in this case. Those who have seen the film, have greatly appreciated it. Ranveer and I were talking among ourselves that we didn't get so much praise for any other film. It is very clear that we have stuck in the third wave of the Covid. 

People are not able to come to the theatre for fear. Even after that, the film has so far grossed over Rs 180 crore worldwide. Internationally, where there are few restrictions or theatres are operational, our film is doing well. I am very confident that if everything went perfect, we would have been doing very well. If we might have a very slow start and that is also because of the pandemic.

Q. What's your take on comparing one film with another during the pandemic?

Kabir: My point is, when you are comparing one film to another, you should only compare at the level playing field. A film is stuck in Covid. How can you compare it to a film released in pre-covid time? On what grounds would you make the comparison? When something illogical happens, one has to assume that there is an agenda. Everybody knows Covid is running, only the trade analysts are reporting, 'the film is not performing up to the mark'. I have noticed that there is no qualitative analysis but only quantitative analysis and that also without taking to the context properly.

Q: Would you consider re-releasing the film after the influence of the pandemic diminished?

Kabir: Re-release may not be that way. I don't think to re-release as much practicality. But yes, we want to keep the film in the theatres so that people can see the film after everything goes normal. And after the completion of the capital run, people will watch it on television and OTT. I know a lot of people will watch the movie on television and OTT.

Q: '83' is being called 'Widest Indian Film'. The film has been released in 82 countries around the world. Wouldn't it be nice to change this number from 82 to 83?

Kabir: We are trying that too. But there are also lots of restrictions in many places internationally because of Covid.

Q: So many films are being released on OTT now. We see that high-definition copies of films are being leaked on the Internet right after streaming. There is a substantial increase in piracy along with Covid. What do you say about that?

Kabir: This is a huge problem for our industry. I think civil society has a role to play in preventing that. It seemed to me that piracy might be reduced once the OTT arrived. Because by subscribing, people will get access to many things.

And the subscription charges are nothing compared to the price of a ticket to the theatre screening. I think people will realize that somehow they are robbing some human rights. This is happening all over the world. It can only be stopped if people gradually understand.

Q: Have '83' also been affected by piracy in any way? The pirated copy was leaked on the Internet.

Kabir: It has happened in one part. Because, when the copy was leaked on the internet, some people were scared to come to the theatre thinking that it was okay to watch the pirated copy. It's happening all over the world, the same thing has happened with my film.

And one more thing, my media friends from all over the country who have reviewed this film have praised it a lot. I have never received so much praise for any of my films. My only regret is that, how can the trade analysts be so blind or how can they pretend that there is no Covid!

Q: As a general audience, how much would you rate '83' out of 10?

Kabir: That will be unfair. This is the proudest film I have made. I am very proud of this film.

Q: So director Kabir is happy?

Kabir: I will always be proud of '83'. Covid is here today and will leave tomorrow. Everything goes away. But two years from now, when you will talk about this film, you will only talk about the film.

And I'm very confident if ever there was talk on my filmography there would be the most talk on '83. This is one of the films that will define me. We're stuck in a trying time right now. There are some misgivings but I am extremely happy with the film '83'. It is one of my finest films if not the finest that I have made.

Q: So many people still think '83' is Kapil Dev's biopic. Don't you want to break this misconception?

Kabir: Actually '83' is a unique film. In many cases, if there is a big star in a film, people want to connect the film with him. Since we have a star like Ranveer here and he is seen portraying the character of Kapil Dev, then people think that this is a biopic of Kapil Dev. This film is different from the others and it is a team film despite having such a superstar.

Q: But it also has a bad effect. Many are watching '83' to compare with 'MS Dhoni'. In my honest opinion, the two films are of a completely different genre.

Kabir: That's very true. I think many people have a pre-conscious notion that this film will be like this. Then when it doesn't match, when they see that it's a completely different film, they think a lot. We have nothing to do with it anymore. Once the film reaches the public domain, you have to leave it with the audience.

Q: How much importance does an 'award' have in Kabir Khan's life?

Kabir: I think one thing about the award. If you get an award somewhere, be happy and take it. If you don't get it, there's nothing wrong with that either. Of course, this is a mark of appreciation but an award does not define an entire country's likes or dislikes. So, I would say, enjoy the part and don't take them too seriously.

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