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How Chirag Patil got to play his dad in '83

By HARISH KOTIAN
December 23, 2021 08:53 IST
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'Ranveer Singh is on a different level, he is a super human.'
'The kind of energy, the kind of seriousness and dedication he has towards his work, it is just phenomenal.'

IMAGE: Former India batsman, coach and chairman of the selectors Sandeep Patil, left, with son Chirag Patil. Photographs: Kind courtesy Chirag Patil/Instagram
 

Chirag Patil plays his father Sandeep Patil in '83.

The 28-year-old actor -- he has featured in Marathi films -- makes his Bollywood debut in Kabir Khan's film on India's memorable triumph in the 1983 World Cup.

Chirag's dad played a crucial innings of 51 from 32 balls to help India beat England by six wickets in the 1983 semi-final. He was also his team's second highest run-getter in the final with 27, when India, despite being bowled for 183, shocked the mighty West Indies by 43 runs to win their first World Cup title.

Chirag, who was never interested in cricket despite having a swashbuckling cricketer dad, says he had to work really hard to ace his father's unique batting style, his stance, his walk in '83.

"He was called the night captain of the Indian team. Kapil Uncle was the day captain on the field and Dad was like the night captain, he was in charge of the party and fun side of things," Chirag tells Rediff.com's Harish Kotian.

How special was it playing your father on the screen?

It was very special. It is every boy's dream to become like his father, to emulate his father, we all do that as kids.

And to get this chance to play him on screen was phenomenal. I feel I am very lucky. And that too in such an amazing film.

Was it easier for you to play Sandeep Patil since you have seen him closely, you know everything about him?

Actually, no.

The acting part was easy, I wouldn't say easy, but easier than the other stuff. But I have never played cricket in my life.

So for me to play Sandeep Patil, who is such an iconic legend -- people still remember his knocks, his shots, his stance, his walk, they know everything about him -- to get that right was a big challenge because nowadays on YouTube you get all the clippings so people immediately compare.

I had to absolutely learn cricket from scratch. I used to practice for five hours a day for eight months to get his shots right and other things.

It has been a long process from becoming a non-cricketer to a cricketer and not just the cricketer, but becoming Sandeep Patil.

He has so many fans, from childhood I have seen people flocking him wherever he goes. So there was some pressure that I don't want to spoil his name by doing something not worthy of him.

That pressure is still there and we will come to know on 24th December how it has gone.

Sandeep Patil had that unique style about him, he had that swagger, he had a certain style of playing cricket. How did you pick up those things?

He was called the night captain of the Indian team. Kapil Uncle was the day captain on the field and Dad was like the night captain, he was in charge of the party and fun side of things.

I heard so many things about him when I was doing the research for the role. Kabir Sir's team is amazing, they have gave so many things and insights, they had spoken to a lot of people.

That part was the easier bit amongst the two because some things are in the DNA.

The World Cup... the things that happened off the field and on the field...I have been listening to this all my life.

When I started working on this film, I had a different way of looking at these 14 legends.

When you are talking about Kapil Dev and Sunil Gavaskar, for me they are like dad's friends since childhood. They have been like Kapil Uncle, Sunil Uncle, Mohinder Uncle (Amarnath).

But when I started shooting for this film is when I realised that they are such big legends and what they have achieved.

My respect for them and my father and the seriousness about who he is and what he has done, completely changed while shooting for this film.

When they left for the World Cup they knew had no chance because they had never won a single match in the World Cup before that. So for them, they were just leaving for a holiday.

They were like 'Let's play a few matches and then let's go to somewhere like the USA and enjoy a few days of holiday there'. So that was their plan.

When they started playing, when they started winning, then everybody started getting serious. So then that self-belief came that we can do it, if we have the desire, if we have the will, and that's how it changed.

Was your father impressed by your role as a cricketer because when you tried to take up cricket when young, he was not that happy?

He said, 'Please don't ever play cricket in your life because you will not play for India ever.' He saw that I was not interested, that I was never inclined towards cricket as a kid.

When he saw a song from my first film -- this was the Marathi movie Raada Rox which was released in 2011 -- he said you have everything in you to become a superstar, but in this profession you can never for sure say this one or that one can become a superstar.

All the things that are needed to be an actor you have it in you and the rest is your destiny. It is all up to you, how you manage your career and how hard you work.

When he saw the first photo of '83, the first look photo of Sandeep Patil, he told me, 'Nakli is looking Asli.'

He is a man of few words, so that is all he said.

IMAGE: Chirag Patil in '83.

All you guys in '83 worked hard to get things right. You practiced your cricket for nearly a year -- eight months in India and then three months in the UK -- to get every aspect right.

We practiced for eight months in Mumbai, then we had gone to a boot camp to Dharamsala for 10 days.

Kabir Sir wanted that bonding because every actor was coming from a different part of India, different backgrounds, from different strata of the film industry.

Ranveer Singh was a big star, then you had Ammy Virk (who plays Balwinder Sandhu), Hardy Sandhu (who plays Madan Lal), Jiva (who plays Krishnamachari Srikanth), these guys are also big stars.

So to get everybody on the same level, to behave like a team and behave like the boys, bonding had to be there.

When we went to Dharamsala, all we did for those 10 days was play cricket and party in the evening. That kind of got us together, got us as a team together and that has transformed even on screen, that chemistry that we have with each other.

You had a professional set-up including a full time coach, physios...

Our coach was Mr Balvinder Singh Sandhu. He coached us all throughout so big credit goes to him. We had physios, we had doctors, everything... because we are actors and not cricketers.

At the age of 30, when you are trying to be an international player -- that too someone who was 26 years old -- the body mechanics are different of an athlete as compared to a normal person. So to get yourself to do that, it's very difficult.

All of us have injuries. For me, because of my father's stance, he used to have this one shoulder down and his neck, so I have got a lifelong, this thing in my neck, it's a spine compression in my neck. It's a lifetime injury, but I think it was worth it in the end.

You have worked in quite a few Marathi films. This is your debut in Bollywood. How was it working with Ranveer Singh?

Every day was a learning process. I have learnt so much from him. I have told this to him several times.

He is on a different level, he is a super human. The kind of energy, the kind of seriousness and dedication he has towards his work, it is just phenomenal.

For a newcomer like me, to look up to him and to work with him, standing in the same frame as him, is just amazing.

It is the kind of same thing when my father started playing for India. You had Kapil Dev, Sunil Gavaskar, Mohinder Amarnath, who were big names and Sandeep Patil was a newcomer.

The same thing is happening with me in this film too. We have so many big stars in the film and I am like the newcomer. I am kind of getting the same vibe.

Ranveer never made us feel like he was a superstar, he was one of the boys.

I mean who gets to call Ranveer Singh your friend, so I am very lucky!!!

Is it true that when you went to audition for your role in '83, you were only asked only to bat and not act?

When I went for the audition, normally at the audition, you are told to act, but here exactly the opposite happened. They put 5-6 cameras and they just told me to bat.

I was holding a bat after 10 years and the first ball they bowled I got out.

When I came home, my father asked how was it. I said: 'It was very bad, because they told me to play cricket and I got out on the first ball.'

So he said, 'Arre yeh gayi film (oh, looks like you have lost this film).'

Two months from Kabir Sir's side, there was no response so I thought somebody else must have got that role.

And then suddenly one day Kabir Sir calls me and tells me to meet him. He showed me footage of that audition and my dad's footage. And that is when we realised the style is the same, the holding of the bat, the stance, the walk... everything.

Some things are in the DNA, so he said: 'I don't need you to be a cricketer as long as you look like him and you walk like him and you talk like him.'

Kabir Sir had seen one of my films. Mr Balwinder Singh Sandhu had shown him one of my Marathi films Vazandar, so he knew I could act. That part he was okay, the only part he was concerned was the cricketing part.

Did Balwinder Singh Sandhu recommend you for the role of Sandeep Patil?

Yes, it was Balwinder Singh Sandhu, all credit goes to him. I am in the film because of him.

They were casting for Sandeep Patil and to my good fortune, Balwinder Singh Sandhu was there.

He has this habit of watching all kind of films, he is a big film buff. He watches Punjabi, Marathi, Hindi... films in all languages. One day he was just flipping through channels and he saw me on Zee Marathi, my movie Vazandar was playing.

And to my good fortune my scene was playing on that day when he happened to be watching the TV. Suddenly, it struck a chord with him, he immediately called Kabir Sir and said 'Sandeep's son is an actor, why don't we audition him? Call him, it will be amazing.'

So that's how I got the part in '83.

What is Sandeep Patil, the father, like?

If you have seen Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, he is like Anupam Kher from that film.

I am blessed to be his son.

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HARISH KOTIAN / Rediff.com

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