After a long drought of good, meaningful Bollywood movies at the box office, the Ranveer Singh starrer 83 was supposed to be a breath of fresh air. And while the reviews have been divided with a faction claiming it to be a cinematic masterpiece and the other dubbing it a mediocre cinema at best – there is no outright winner in the discussion. Whatever spectrum of the discussion you find yourself nestled in, the only barometer for a neutral eye is the box office numbers, and to be perfectly honest, the numbers are kinda catastrophic.
83 has been an out-and-out tragedy from the financial lens. Reportedly, the movie, which was made at an estimated cost of Rs 270 crores, stands to lose over 150 crores at the box office, despite running at the theatres for two weeks now.
Such a sorry performance at the box office raises a lot of eyebrows. After all, in the lead-up and promotions, the movie had everything going for it…hell, it even had a decent word of mouth. And yet here we stand. Rs 150 crores lost. So, let’s dive right into the movie and investigate what reasons led to such a dismal show at the box office, and no, Covid is not to blame here.
Strong competition at the box office
While the producers of the movie are trying to pin the fateful run of the movie on the third wave of the pandemic – the reality is far from it. 83 came a week after movies like Spiderman- No way home and Pushpa had been released. And both of these movies have been a major cash-grabber as the audience has flocked to the theatres in huge numbers.
In India, No Way Home has comfortably crossed the 200 crore mark and is now the third-highest Hollywood grosser. It stands just below Avengers: Endgame and Avengers: Infinity War.
No Way Home, despite not having the chummiest of scripts has managed to use the nostalgia train to ferry the cinema-goers. Tom Holland, Andrew Garfield, and of course the OG Tobey Maguire have provided full fan service to the movie. And no one is complaining either. There is even chatter of Andrew Garfield getting a third movie to complete his trilogy.
As for Pushpa, the movie is all set to be released in the USA as well, which speaks volumes of its success. The word-of-mouth publicity of Pushpa has been immense and the public in tier-2, tier-3 cities are making multiple rounds to the theatres to watch the movie.
Thus, one can ascertain with utmost surety that 83 failed to capture the imagination of the cinemagoers. Not because it was any low in quality but the audience had better and superior alternatives.
The Documentary style and too much focus on one player
Secondly, 83, despite how well it was made, came across as a documentary-style movie. The audience felt that the movie did not have the appeal to elevate it to the next level. Some even felt that movie became a biography of Kapil Dev with Ranveer having the maximum screen time.
It is understandable that Ranveer had the star power but the 1983 WC victory was a collective effort and the movie certainly fell short in depicting that.
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The makers did not delve deeper into the lives of other players. After coming out of the cinema, we didn’t know anything more about, say, K Srikanth than we knew about him while going inside the theatre.
In nutshell, it didn’t add much to anyone’s cricket or cinema-watching experience. We could have easily watched the entire team on The Kapil Sharma Show and unearthed much funnier and intricate storylines.
The Indian Audience is exhausted with cricketing action!
Thirdly, and this may be a bit controversial but hear us out. 83 has hit our cinema screens, a few years too late. The 1983 victory was a watershed moment, no doubt but since then, India has grown into a giant of the game.
Furthermore, the thirst for another WC trophy was quenched in 2007 and 2011, with many regarding the latter as one of the biggest sporting moments in the country’s recent history. Today’s generation has seen the team do reasonably well and has a different yardstick to gauge success.
The team is simply superior and is now doing well overseas — winning tournaments and despite the lack of ICC trophy in the last 8 years, the team has given more than enough occasions to be elated — which wasn’t the case when the heroics of 1983 transpired.
And moreover, Cricket has become a highly commercialized sport. BCCI practically runs the game at the moment. The game has also become individualistic. Top Cricketers are busy creating personal brands, fans form cults based on these brands. The game is no more about playing for the nation. As a result, the ‘Cricket is a religion’ sentiment has toned down a bit. The cricket-associated patriotism is not the driving force anymore.
Another factor is that the cricket fans are over-exhausted with the cricketing action. The last year has seen Indian fans witness the miracle at Gabba, Lord’s, and now Centurion. Add to it the hectic IPL programming that was divided into two halves with World Test Championship added into the mix.
As a fan, one has enough content to consume, and thus when trying to find escapism in cinema, one would rather not watch another cricket-related movie.
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Woke agendas and Aman ki Asha
Kabir Khan, the director of 83 is known for his Pakistan-love and woke agendas. The movie could have easily been done without some of the plot points like showing Pakistan in a good light.
The movie showed that the Pakistani Army stopped firing to let the Indian Army listen to the score of the final match. The reality may have been starkly different but Kabir Khan saw it fit to suit his agenda.
The argument is nitpicking at best but in the current charged and polarised political climate, such points do dent the box office collection significantly and 83 learned it the hard way.
Not catering to the right audience
Last but not the least, 83 appeared rather urbane in its approach to the story. The team that won the 1983 WC, came from small cities and towns, essentially the tier-2, tier-3 cities. However, the makers failed to relate to them.
The film has worked at select metros, that too at premium multiplexes. Outside metros and especially at smaller centres/mass belts, the film has not found acceptance. The expected numbers are missing.
It appealed more to the big city audience, the mass belt just did not take to it. Especially the youth and those who relish masala fares.
83 is not a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination but an amalgamation of factors led to its dismal performance. It may very well go on to become a cult movie in the future like many duds of the past have become but the producers will not be having a good night’s sleep for a long time. As for Ranveer, don’t be surprised if he sweeps nearly every award show next year.