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'Aditya Chopra says '83 is your finest'

By RONJITA KULKARNI
Last updated on: December 31, 2021 15:33 IST
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'A friend of mine said she grew up not liking cricket. She hated cricket.'
'But she said when I was watching your film, I suddenly had a life-altering moment when I thought that if this is what cricket does to you, then have I missed out on a large part of my life?'
'I got tears in my eyes when I read that.'

IMAGE: Kabir Khan, right, with Ranveer Singh and tennis ace Mahesh Bhupathi, left. Photograph: Kind courtesy Kabir Khan/Instagram

It is a bittersweet moment for Kabir Khan.

While his latest film '83 has got spectacular reviews, its box office journey has been impacted by the rising COVID cases in the country.

'83 released after more than a year-and-a-half of its initial scheduled release date, but even that may not have worked out in its favour.

"We planned it and we thought we're getting it out at the right time. But just when we released, the Omicron threat suddenly became worse," Khan tells Ronjita Kulkarni/Rediff.com.

Are you happy with the response '83 has been getting?

It's been a long journey, more than a year-and-a-half since the film was ready.

We held on because we were firm in our belief that this must only release on the big screen.

We planned it and we thought we're getting it out at the right time.

But just when we released, the Omicron threat suddenly became worse. On the day of our release, two states went into night curfew.

On Day Four of the release, six states went into night curfew.

Delhi, which is a very big territory for us, has shut its theatres.

So obviously, we are disappointed about these things, but it is completely beyond anybody's control.

The fear of pandemic is all over the planet. It's not something that is happening locally.

So I think at this stage, one cannot sit and complain.

I'm only thankful for the unprecedented love that we've got from anybody who's watched the film.

The kind of reviews that we've got from the media is something I have not seen for a long, long time. Forget my own films, I've not seen this for other films too.

It's not only about the four and the five stars -- and some people even saying six stars because the film hit a sixer -- it's about how people are moved so emotionally.

Ranveer and I were discussing this, you know, that we've had successful films before. People send the usual messages like 'great film' and 'congratulations'. But we are not getting these kinds of messages for '83.

'83 is an emotional catharsis for people.

Jo message aa rahe hai, do-do page ka message hai.

People have had an emotional experience through it.

It's overwhelming.

And that's what we have to focus on because yes, we are living in a time when the pandemic is shutting down theatres by the day.

Every film after us has shifted; nobody wants to release films now because the situation is so bad.

But this was its destiny. At least, the film is out.

We are getting videos from theatres, where people are literally yelling and whistling and waving flags! It's like people are inside a stadium instead of a theatre!

 

IMAGE: Kabir Khan, wife Mini Mathur, children Vivaan and Sairah with Ranveer Singh at the '83 premiere. Photograph: Kind courtesy Mini Mathur/Instagram

Are you worried about recovering costs? What happens if the film doesn't recover costs?

Then some people will become very sad, I guess!

No, I don't think that will happen because we have pretty much covered ourselves in terms of the cost and the recoveries.

Of course, everybody likes to have a good run at the box office.

Who wants theatres to shut down when you are trying to have people see your film?

But if this is the situation we are living in, then we go to our next plan.

People will be watching it on OTT, on satellite.

It's definitely a film that's there for the long run, and I hope people will continue enjoying it for as long as they can.

Since this one turned out so well, do you have any plans about making another biopic?

I'll be very honest. I won't try and make another biopic because this has come out well.

I will go for another biopic if I find one in a similar emotional pool. So if I get a story, which is similar to '83 in terms of the content, I will definitely go for it.

But not because I'm trying to replicate it because if I was to do that, then I would be replicating my other successful films too.

I would just be spending my time making sequels of my own films.

But no, I wouldn't be doing that.

Having said that, if there's a story that is as engaging, entertaining and exciting as this, why not?

IMAGE: Kabir Khan, right, with his crew on the famous balcony at Lord's. Photograph: Kind courtesy Kabir Khan/Instagram

What's your most memorable feedback from this film?

Ranveer and I have been taken aback by the sheer volume and intensity of the feedback.

It's literally like if I do not have my phone on silent, it's constantly ringing and beeping.

It's unprecedented love that we're getting.

A friend of mine said she grew up not liking cricket. She hated cricket and would get very upset when people at home would switch on cricket on TV.

But she said when I was watching your film, I suddenly had a life-altering moment when I thought that if this is what cricket does to you, then have I missed out on a large part of my life? Did I make a mistake by not being a part of that in my childhood?

I got tears in my eyes when I read that.

Aditya Chopra is a very private person and usually doesn't like people sharing his words, but he said most film-makers leave behind that one film that they get remembered by, and you've already got two. '83 is your finest.

I began my career with Adi, and learned the ropes of mainstream cinema from him.

Has the film met your personal expectations?

One advantage of sitting with the film for one-and-a-half years was that wherever I felt that yahaan thoda kami hai, ya wahan thoda kami hai, I got time for that.

See, honestly, no director is ever 100 percent happy with anything he or she does. Even after the release, they will feel, arrey, yeh change karna tha.

But this is the closest that I would say I've come to being 100 percent happy with the film.

If you would ask me what would I change in the film, I would not change a word or a shot.

That's how happy I am with the film.

IMAGE: A scene from '83.

'83 has a large cast. Were they happy with it?

In the beginning, the media was calling it a Kapil Dev biopic.

But we said that it's not a biopic, it's a story of the World Cup.

So when the entire cast watched the film, they realised how true this is to a team film.

Of course, Ranveer Singh is Ranveer Singh, and Kapil Dev's character did lead from the front, but this is truly what you call a team film.

When the film ends, you feel for every member of the team.

That is what has made the boys really happy.

And they have really worked hard for the film.

When you watch the matches, you feel like you are watching a real match because that's the level of training they have done for the film.

They trained for six months to a year, about five hours a day. And it shows.

There are reports that Ranveer let go of his pending fees. Is that true?

I don't know what you're talking about.

Firstly, Ranveer hardly charged anything for this film.

IMAGE: Kabir Khan and Mini Mathur with Kapil Dev and Romi Dev. Photograph: Kind courtesy Mini Mathur/Instagram

Have you made a friend for life in Kapil Dev?

Absolutely! It's very rare to find people like him.

He's been an unbelievable pillar of support through this entire journey.

I would like to always be in touch with him because he's really an inspirational person.

If you ever feel down and out, one chat with Kapil sir and you will feel like you can take on anything in life.

Salman Khan announced that there is a Bajrangi Bhaijaan sequel being planned -- Pavan Putra Bhaijaan.

Salman was talking about the fact that K V Vijayendra Prasadji is writing a story for it. When it's done, we will sit down and talk.

Like I said earlier, just a sequel doesn't excite me. The story does.

I would love to do it if the story is great, and not because it's the sequel of a successful film.

Of course, working with Salman is always something I will cherish. We've had a good collaboration.

His contribution in my career has been very big. So if I get an opportunity, obviously I will work with him again.

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RONJITA KULKARNI / Rediff.com