Cricket - Kapil Dev
Captain Fantastic: Kapil Dev holds court at the promotion of '83, the first one in India, in Kolkata. Image Credit: AFP

Kolkata: It was, once more, time for floodgates of nostalgia to open on Monday. If Kapil Dev the captain believed in being hands-on when he led India to that fairtytale 1983 World Cup win, he believed in taking leadership of promoting the film ‘83, which promises to immortalise one of the most ‘classic underdog stories’ - in the words of its director Kabir Khan.

The Ranveer Singh starrer, which was waiting for nearly two years due to the pandemic for a release in theatres, is finally ready for a pan-India release on the Christmas Eve and it was a bonus for the City of Joy to have Kapil kickstart the promotions here. SVF Films, one of the biggest producers of regional films, are the sole distributors of the film in eastern India hosted the event at their office premises.

Any Bollywood production prides itself on the promotion, and the highly anticipated film is no exception. A mega promotion is due in Dubai on Thursday which will feature the stars of the film, alongwith Kapil and a few members of his Class of ‘83 but in Kolkata on Monday - it was the greying sports icon who held court in his inimitable style with the media personnel.


The stories recounted in the interaction were all-too-familiar - if you are someone in the middle ages. The 175 not out against Zimbabwe at Tunbridge Wells, regarded as one of the most heroic counterattacking innings ever in the history of limited overs cricket, dominated the discussion for a long time and more unheard stories came out. An interesting anecdote revealed the legendary status of the man in that scenic town after decades - when Kapil’s daughter Amiya was visiting the place with a bunch of her friends at a local pub - the owner refused to bill her on learning who her father was.

It was more the dare of youth - and the natural cricketing abilities that he was blessed with which told Kapil that they should aim big - though not too many of his teammates shared the same conviction. There were seven members of the team, including the inimitable Krish Srikkanth (who was accompanied by his wife), had even made plans to visit the US after the group stage games. Needless to say, the tickets had to be cancelled as they continued to surprise themselves on their way to the final.

The ‘Haryana Hurricane’ once famously said that no one could play his role better than him. Asked what made him change his mind, Kapil said he would have given it a thought had it been some three decades back and praised Ranveer’s commitment and willingness to learn the nuances of the game to prepare for the iconic role.

History says there are two cricketers for whom Kolkata had taken taken to the streets - Mushtaq Ali, Kapil Dev - apart from Sourav Ganguly. When Kapil was dropped from the Eden Gardens Test match during the 1984-’85 series against England for a so-called disciplinary measure, posters of ‘No Kapil, No Test’ surfaced against the then captain Sunil Gavaskar.

Kapil, of course, is no stranger to the extreme emotions that the city harbours for its favourite sporting heroes. ‘‘The city may have changed, but its passion for the sport is unmatched in this city. During my past visits, I have seen enthusiastic parents take their children in the coaching camps and egg them on. During our times, it would have been unthinkable,’’ he said.

As we await the film, may be it’s time to say Kapil da jawab nahin (Kapil Dev has no match) - taking off from his famous ad many years ago!