1983 movie review: History gone for a toss

This movie proves, from school days to theatre, history is not always interesting

Movie: 1983
Cast: Nivin Pauly and Nikki Galrani
Director: Abrid Shine
Rating: Two and a half stars

Kochi: One would expect a period film, especially one with a titular date, to be factual with respect to its sounds, settings, props, and costumes. Sadly, in 1983, even the pioneering landmark around which the film spins is far from accurate. The film is a tribute by a self-confessed fan to one of India’s greatest cricketers.

A small town youth, Rameshan (Nivin Pauly; carefree, but passionate about his sport), is a promising student who loses all interest in studies the moment he gets addicted to playing cricket. His father (Joy Mathew; stern), a mechanic who has not had the fortune of being highly educated formally, hopes that his son would one day be an engineer. The story appears real. The dialogues are effective. And the characters evoke laughter.

But the records need to be set straight: In the year 1983, when Kapil Dev, et al., were fighting it out in the Cricket World Cup, the poor rural folk in Kerala did not sit excitedly around a TV watching the matches. They did not do so, of course, because they had not at that time heard of a game called cricket. In fact, prior to that great victory, this was a past time primarily of the affluent. Further, and very importantly, it was this very victory that was solely responsible for, overnight, kicking the footballs out of the playing grounds of Kerala and making cricket the religion of the masses that it is today.

The Kerala of decades ago was an altogether different place. An adolescent couple exchanging intimate glances at the wayside may seem very romantic onscreen. But the no-nonsense father of the boy would most likely have greeted him with a leather belt behind closed doors. Further, young males with hair shaved off their faces would have been the laughing stock of their village. But yes, images of life in a small town with half-broken buildings, of someone raising a two-storey-high TV antenna, of a sad Gulf returnee, and of people playing a cricket tournament dressed in lungis and rubber slippers do offer a feel of the serene olden times.

The frames are pleasing, and the lighting is nice. The camerawork includes a fashionable tracking shot. A couple is talking on their first night. The subject is Tendulkar. It changes to family and sutram. She blushes. The camera zooms in on the “fan”. Then it tiptoes out of the bedroom. One gets the feeling that the couple is tiptoeing out of the room, into the kitchen, and past the front room into the front yard. Daylight breaks. The camera stops in its tracks: the couple is now in the front yard, and their child is swinging a bat made from the branch of a coconut tree. Not a new technique; but surreal all the same.

Parents sometimes finally succeed through their children. The former having failed, not always because they were less talented, but simply because their opportunities were far less. What is important is that they did not compromise on dedication, or choose the shorter cuts.

Sachin Tendulkar has done wonders for Indian cricket and inspired millions, and thus deserves the adulation that writer-director Abrid Shine lavishes upon him. The film is nostalgic, and narrated in the first person. It’s a pity, however, that the chronology of the main character and that of the cricketing milestones fails to match.

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