If I were to look back in time and think of India’s performance in the 1983 Cricket World Cup my personal memories are mostly limited to the final which we played against the West Indies and won convincingly. I was but a toddler then but I still remember that my father brought me home early from school that day, probably because he did not want to get disturbed later on while watching the match 🙂 . But by the time the World Championship of Cricket happened in 1985, I was hooked to the game. I still remember India’s convincing win over Pakistan in the finals and Ravi Shastri winning an Audi Car and being crowned “Champion of Champions”.
I was always an above average student when it came to academics and when it came to extra-curricular activities I was even better, excelling in quite a few fields. But I had my Achilles Heel in the form of sports, though I wanted to excel in it and be known as an all-rounder this was something beyond my reach. Given a choice I would have loved to have been a good cricketer, but alas that was never to happen. The moment of reckoning came in when I went for the Under-16 District Trials just because a friend needed company and I ended up embarrassing myself. While I did not get to enjoy the game as a player I kept alive my passion for the game by following Cricket vigorously, something that I still do after all these years. So why am I going back in time and writing about all this, you may ask. But I really can’t help it as Abrid Shine’s recent Malayalam film 1983 has made me think of all these things and more.
In 1983 when India was winning the Cricket World Cup a `10 year old Rameshan (Nivin Pauly) was cheering for the Indian team’s victory too along with many other villagers. Rameshan belongs to a simple family comprising of his father Gopi Aashan (Joy Mathew), a hardworking self-taught mechanic along with his mother and sister. Unlike his sister Rameshan is good at studies and his father hopes to see him become a mechanical engineer eventually. But Rameshan’s heart lies more in Cricket and Manjula (Nikki Galrani), a classmate from his school. Rameshan is the star batsman of the local cricket team which includes Pappan (Saiju Kurup), Mantle Johny (Kalabhavan Prajod), Babukuttan (Sanju), Prahladan (Neeraj Madhav) etc. Much to the dismay of Gopi Aashan , Rameshan ends up devoting more time to cricket than academics.
This leads to Rameshan eventually failing in higher secondary (junior college) and thus he ends up assisting his father in the workshop and learning the ropes, while continuing to play match after match, tournament after tournament for his team and winning laurels. Manjula keeps hoping that one day Rameshan will complete his studies, get a job and marry her but that doesn’t happen and she ends up getting married to someone else and moving abroad. Egged on by his friends Rameshan gets married to Susheela (Srinda Ashab), but to his dismay he finds out that she is a way too simple girl who has no interest in cricket. Things take an interesting turn when Rameshan and Susheela have a son, Kannan and Rameshan is overjoyed to see that his son is also inclined towards Cricket like him. What happens from thereon in the lives of Rameshan, Susheela and Kannan is what the rest of the film is all about.
The film is steeped in nostalgia and chronicles the Indian Cricket Team’s journey too from 1983 onward along with Rameshan’s story. As various events unfold in his life there are corresponding parallels drawn with the exploits of the Indian Cricket Team over the years. For Rameshan and his friends, the game is an integral part of their life which also goes on to strengthen their friendship over the years. Abrid Shine takes great care in ensuring that while essentially this is a Cricket based film, there is enough and more for those who are not into the game also develop a connect with the film. The film also has a good blend of humour and emotional connect. The entire match sequence featuring a cameo from Jacob Gregory as Sachin from Mumbai who is drafted as a last minute replacement in Rameshan’s team is hilarious to say the least. Jacob Gregory is fast emerging as a comedian with promise and here’s hoping he gets utilized the right way. Another landmark moment in the film is during Rameshan and Susheela’s first night after their wedding when Rameshan discovers to his dismay that Susheela doesn’t even know who Sachin Tendulkar is 🙂 .
1983 is also a great tale of friendship and the entire team remains united right till the very end. Be it cheering for Pappan when he moves to Kuwait & eagerly awaiting his letters or consoling him on his return back due to the Gulf War, or even the way everyone rallies around Rameshan in support of the way he goes about giving the necessary guidance to Kannan to become a cricketer, these are all but examples of the way true friendship should be in today’s times. The film is also more than a relevant tribute to Sachin Tendulkar as his reference is built into the film wonderfully without overdoing it. Sachin Tendulkar in fact is actually an important character in the film itself despite not being physically present in the film. Abrid Shine demonstrates great control in ensuring that this doesn’t come across as a simple tribute film, and that’s something that adds to the film’s strength.
Pradeesh Varma’s cinematography brings out a good balance between the lush green exterior shots and the Cricket sequences in particular have been captured very well on screen. Gopi Sunder’s songs and BGM suits the film pretty well and the already popular “Olanajali Kuruvi” (sung by P.Jayachandran and Vani Jairam) song is the pick of the lot which captures the period (late 1980’s) wonderfully. The film has a host of characters and the casting choices have been pretty good making the film a pleasure to watch. Joy Mathew as Gopi Aashan is wonderful and he brings out multiple shades in the character quite well. Be it as a parent with a lot of expectations from his son, to that of a father in despair over his son’s career and eventually understanding that his son’s passion has a lot of meaning, Joy Mathew brings out joy and angst in Gopi Aashan with a lot of ease and charm. Saiju Kurup, Kalabhavan Prajod, Neeraj Madhav, Sanju etc are all competent as Rameshan’s friends who all stand united on everything beyond the Cricket field as well.
Srinda Ashab is an excellent choice as Susheela, a typical village simpleton for whom her entire World revolves around her husband and son. She is entirely believable as Susheela and her character lends great support to Rameshan especially when his own parents are not too happy with him. Nikki Galrani is cute and fits her role of Manjula quite well. Though she doesn’t have much to do in the film per se her presence is essential to bring out a contrast between Rameshan’s initial phases and what happens later after his wedding. Anoop Menon as Vijay Menon, ex Kerala Cricketer and Coach is a natural and his scenes with Kannan when he is guiding him and those with Rameshan in particular stand out. When Vijay Menon tells Rameshan that in Kannan he should see an extension of himself and that while Rameshan did not get the necessary encouragement to develop as a cricketer, Kannan is lucky to have Rameshan’s encouragement it is indeed heart wrenching.
Nivin Pauly in the central role of Rameshan is a treat to watch and he brings out the gradual transition from a 16 year old to a 40 year old convincingly. He brings out hope, despair, joy and sorrow in the required proportion at the appropriate moment pretty well. With back to back hits in the form of 1983 and Ohm Shanthi Oshaana, the year seems to have got off to a good start for Nivin Pauly. As a self-confessed Sachin fan, Abrid Shine has not just made a film that would make all other fans of the great cricketer proud, but he ends up making a good beginning overall to his filmmaking career. 1983 also ends up being a social commentary of sorts as we all know of so many youngsters across India raring to make it big in sports especially Cricket, but failing to do so for the lack of proper encouragement , lack of resources and opportunities.
Ultimately 1983 is a good blend of nostalgia and Cricket and serves as a great tribute to one of the greatest players that the game has seen. If you are into Cricket the film will move you a lot, but even otherwise the film has enough to reach out to you by itself. Take a bow Abrid Shine for this wonderful film to have made your debut with.