“I was inspired to take up playing the game with the season (hard) ball after the 1983 World Cup victory. Had it not happened things could have been different for me,” these words of Sachin Tendulkar are what truly define the Malayalam film 1983, the directorial debut of Abrid Shine, a celebrity photographer.
Sachin, indeed, is the true hero of the film, which charts the life of a die-hard cricket buff Rameshan (the name, a Malayalam-ised version of Ramesh, Sachin’s father), who lives, breathes and dreams cricket.
What the film and its thumping success in Kerala have brought to the fore is a wave of nostalgia that is unprecedented. It is a feeling people who lived through the 1980s might best understand.
Cricket was everywhere, and many a youngster sacrificed their academics and career ambitions chasing the lure of the game – not fascinated by its riches (as the flashy lifestyle of cricketers were then not in vogue without today’s ubiquitous cable TV).
In a fervor that perhaps only die-hard cricket buffs would understand, many a teenager bunked classes, dashed off to school playgrounds and paddy field-turned-cricket turfs, hurling boundaries and tossing a googly.
Abrid Shine was one of them. Passionate about cricket to this day, Shine recalls days when he would play cricket, wherever he was, in his mind with just six stones picked up from the wayside in his hands. “I would play imaginary last-over matches, playing out each ball, as I throw away the stones one by one.”
But 1983, Abrid asserts, will find resonance to just about everyone “because almost everyone in Kerala will have known a Rameshan in their lives – it could you, your brother, your son, your neighbor…”
The film is set in a fictional village near Thiruvananthapuram. Abrid says the choice is deliberate because the state capital was perhaps the only area where people had the privilege of watching the 1983 World Cup on television.
Just as Sachin in real life is initiated into cricket, in 1983, Rameshan the central character becomes smitten by the game. From then on, the film moves in parallel tracks with Sachin going on to become a national hero and sporting legend, and Rameshan, falling by the wayside, unable to cope up with the pressures of everyday reality.
Abrid says the film takes the perspective of the millions of immensely talented cricketers in India, who reach nowhere because their skills weren’t fine-tuned.
But what sets 1983 apart is that a story that could have become melodramatic kitsch rises above the mundane, and becomes a bitter-sweet take on life.
Cricket and Sachin, even his retirement, serve as backdrops of the film but its characters – Rameshan and his wife who doesn’t even recognize Sachin – bring an underlying sense of nostalgia and longing.
Abrid says that while he has watched the cricket films, including Lagaan, they were never an overt influence in the making of 1983.
He says that he was confident of the film (but not to a level of over-confidence) because of its inherent honesty.
For his first film, he dipped into his own life and his village near Thalayolaparambu, primarily to bring out the youthful enthusiasm for cricket that abounds in rural Kerala.
Having worked as photographer for a women’s magazine, he was already familiar with most actors. He also had the experience of assisting director Lal Jose. Tagging alongside Martin Prakkat, his former colleague and now ace-director, he had seen the working of the film industry.
But from a village boy playing cricket to earning standing ovations for his directorial debut, Abrid’s journey hasn’t been easy either. He first worked as a light boy assisting a local cameraman for some extra money as a student, before he took up photography as a career.
He struggled as a ‘marriage photographer’ and then as a ‘fashion photographer,’ before finding his footing. “If I was not playing cricket, I was always drawing and doodling,” says Abrid. “I guess, there was that visual mindset in me.” 1983 celebrates that visual brilliance with every scene bringing out the natural allure of Kerala.
Abrid is now moving working on two projects – one a political satire and the other a period film. While the details are being finalized, Abrid continues to be passionate about cricket – a game that he now plays with his son, who also makes an acting debut in 1983. If you love cricket, if you love the nostalgia of the 1980s, here is 1983 for you.