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Saqib Saleem on working with Ranveer Singh in 83: ‘He opens his arms so wide, all 10 of us can hug him’

Saqib Saleem said the script of 83 is so well written, that each character has moments to shine in the sports-drama. The Kabir Khan directorial tells the story of India's first cricket World Cup win in 1983.

Written by Mimansa Shekhar | New Delhi |
Updated: December 24, 2021 8:24:26 am
saqib saleem 83 film ranveer singhSaqib Saleem plays the role of Mohinder Amarnath aka Jimmy Amarnath in 83. (Photos: Instagram/Saqib Saleem)

For actor Saqib Saleem, the most challenging part to get into the skin of icon Mohinder Amarnath in the upcoming 83, was “cracking the Jimmy smile.” And then getting his energy right. “I’m a very hyper active, talkative person. Jimmy sir is opposite of that. He just speaks one line. So to hold that energy inside me took a while,” Saqib told indianexpress.com in a candid chat about playing the legendary all-rounder in the Kabir Khan directorial.

“It is not just about holding a bat and a ball. It is about understanding the man’s mindset. Mohinder Amarnath comes from a cricketing family. Of course I knew about cricket, but first I had to read about him a lot. I was fortunate enough to get to spend about a month with him in person. With such legends around me, I was like a cricket fan on set,” he added.

Saqib has been a cricketer himself while growing up. He shared that he had to “sell himself” to Kabir Khan to audition for the film. He recalled reading about a film being planned on India’s 1983 Cricket World Cup win in some newspaper with Ranveer Singh playing Kapil Dev. He wondered who would be playing Mohinder Amarnath, the then vice-captain of the team, who also became the Man of the Match in the finals. “They were still open for casting. I went and met Kabir sir. In fact I sold myself to him saying ‘Sir I play good cricket. Please audition me once.’ He screen tested me and saw my cricketing skills. Thankfully my Under-19 cricketing days helped me. That’s how 83 happened.”

83 also stars actors Tahir Raj Bhasin, Jiiva, Jatin Sarna, Ammy Virk, Chirag Patil, Dinker Sharma, Nishant Dahiya, Harrdy Sandhu, Sahil Khattar, Adinath Kothare and Dhairya Karwa as various team members, along with Pankaj Tripathi, Deepika Padukone, Neena Gupta and Boman Irani.

mohinder amarnath kapil dev saqib saleem 83 film Several real-life scenes have been recreated in 83. (Photos: Instagram/Saqib Saleem)

According to Saqib, Kabir Khan‘s foremost instruction to the team was to look like cricketers. “He didn’t care if the camera was on us or not. We were playing a cricket match, we were a sportsperson so we had to get that body language right,” he said adding that he practiced for nearly eight months for the game along with his co-stars in various camps. “The journey has been so instrumental in making us these characters,” he said.

Staying together for so many months made the entire team close knit. So much so that Saqib said they felt they were preparing to play a big tournament in real. “You can take screengrabs from the trailer, and match it with the actual footage that is available online. That’s the amount of detailing Kabir Khan has put into this. Everybody wanted to put their best foot forward. So that makes even you want to try harder. Everybody was motivating one another. We used to eat together, sleep together, party together, practice together. After a point it was like an extended school vacation.

 

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A post shared by Saqib Saleem (@saqibsaleem)

Saqib revealed that the script is so well written, that each character has moments to shine in the sports-drama. He even touted it as a story about a “bunch of boys becoming men” on the cricket field. “And that’s actually what happened with all of us too. When we went to London, we were so excited. By the time we came back, we were a calm bunch,” he added.

Saqib credited Ranveer Singh for being the anchor of the ship. In fact, he was completely in character as the captain of the team in real sense. “He opens his arms so wide, that all ten of us can hug him. He has so much love in him. It was a difficult film because there were days when you had nothing to shoot but you had to be on set standing as the third man. We all had a lot of downtime, but Ranveer made sure everybody was up and had energy. He’d put his arm around that guy, have coffee with him, sit with him, chat with him about anything else but the film. On one side he had to carry the responsibility of being Kapil Dev, and then he’d genuinely become the captain of the team. He does it very seamlessly,” Saqib revealed.

83 film team cast Director Kabir Khan with the entire cast of 83. (Photo: Instagram/Saqib Saleem)

And what about Kabir Khan, considering 83 was the first time he was making a sports film? Saqib called him the most prepared person who’d never over-instruct his actors. For him, Kabir’s film set is a classroom in itself. “He’d make sure all his ADs are learning. He’d explain to them why a shot is important to the film. It doesn’t come from a place of arrogance but humility. He is a very democratic man.”

83 has so far received mostly positive reviews. Saqib concluded by showing happiness that after a long wait, the film will finally hit the theatres coming Friday. “Excitement level is beyond belief right now,” he signed off.

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