25th June, 1983, is a date that will not be forgotten by any cricket lover of India. It was the day when an unfancied team from India defeated the mighty, star studded West Indies to win the cricket world cup which was officially known as the Prudential Cup. Quite rightly, now a film has been made to mark this great moment in India’s cricket history. This film is titled 83 and is based on the real life story of India’s momentous achievement.
Interestingly some of the sons of the old players have acted in the film. The actor who plays the role of Sandeep Patil is his son Chirag Patil who has earlier acted in Marathi and Hindi films. Furthermore, the sons of the West Indian players Gordon Greenidge and Malcolm Marshall have acted as their own fathers in the film. India’s top all rounder Mohinder Amarnath appears as his famous father Lala Amarnath on the screen.
The only person from Hyderabad who was involved in that historic triumph was P.R. Man Singh, the soft spoken manager of the team. “Man” as he is popularly known in Hyderabad cricket circles, has an interesting background. There is a town named Poundri in Haryana. It was there that the family was based and Man Singh’s father Ramsingh Aggarwal had his early education. Man Singh’s uncle Amarsingh Aggarwal was a contractor in Meerut who supplied goods to the army.
In 1930 a large contingent of the army moved from Meerut to Secunderabad and the gentleman also moved to Secunderabad so as to continue his business. He also helped his brother Ramsingh to get a job in Secunderabad with the Deccan Wine Stores which was then located in James Street.
Although he was a teetotaler, Ramsingh understood the liquor trade very well and had a keen mind for business. After a while he opened his own wine stores, one in Abids and one in Secunderabad. In 1937 he got married and his wife Laxmidevi joined him in Secunderabad. The business flourished and in time they were blessed with two children, a boy whom they named Man Singh and a girl whom they called Usha.
Before his SSC examination, the school added the initials P (for his native place Poundri) and Ramsingh (his father’s name) in Man Singh’s name and by mistake the family name of Aggarwal got left out. That is why he is still known as P.R. Man Singh. Cricketers call him Man Bhai and Ravi Shastri calls him Mannu Bhai.
Man grew up to be a good cricketer but after a while got into the administrative side of the game. He became secretary of the Hyderabad Cricket Association and served for many years in that capacity. Before the 1983 World Cup the BCCI was toying with the names to be appointed as manager for two series. One, against the West Indies and the other for the World Cup. Finally after a lot of deliberation, Man Singh was given the responsibility of being the team manager for the Prudential World Cup.
In the film, Man Singh’s role has been played by the well known actor Pankaj Tripathi. The actor has established himself with good performances in small and big roles in several Hindi films such as Bunty Aur Babli, Gangs Of Wasseypur and others. He spent a day with Man Singh to study and imbibe his mannerisms for the movie.
During the Prudential Cup, it was Man Singh’s job to see that everything went smoothly off the field. Speaking to siasat.com Man Singh relived the memories of those heady days and related some extremely interesting incidents.
“The idea for the film came to Balwinder Singh Sandhu who was a player in the team which won the Cup in 1983. He lives in Mumbai and he put this idea to some filmmakers whom he knew. In 2016, I heard that a film on the 1983 World Cup was being planned. Gradually it took shape and all the players and myself were asked to sign contracts with the filmmakers. Various actors would play our parts but they needed our inputs and information,” said Man Singh.
“Incidentally I know the director Kabir Khan and his family elders. His mother was my senior at Nizam College. His father was Rahseeduddin Khan who comes from a respected family of scholars. He was also a member of the Rajya Sabha. So I easily became friends with Kabir. The cast and crew worked hard to bring out this film and nothing was left to chance. The story of the film is almost 100 percent accurate. Only one or two incidents have been inserted for entertainment purpose. Otherwise everything in the film really happened,” explained Man Singh.
Talking about the actual tournament itself, Man Singh said: “It was my responsibility to ensure that there was nothing to disturb the minds of the players. They should be able to focus entirely on the game. It was my fellow Hyderabadi, Mr. Ghulam Ahmed who gave me some invaluable advice about managing the team and his guidance was immensely helpful.”
“My first task was to become a friend of the players. They should not feel that I was a spy of the BCCI. I am very grateful to the players for their cooperation and the respect they had for me. Before the trip, we all assembled in Mumbai and set off by an Air India flight. Nobody expected much from this team. The BCCI did not even arrange the usual farewell dinner. There was no conditioning camp and no media reports about our chances,” said Man Singh.
“But strangely my father, Ramsingh Aggarwal, had a feeling that we would definitely win the trophy. Just a day before we set off, he instructed the staff in his office to clear a big shelf and paint it and make it look nice. “We will place the World Cup on that shelf when it comes to us,” he told them. As for me, I thought that we may go up to the semi finals,” related Man Singh.
“When we reached England, things went well for us. At some grounds the facilities were very basic. But we adjusted and we fought hard. I made sure that the team was provided with three vegetarian meals everywhere. One was for Krishnamachari Srikkant, another for Yashpal Sharma and the third for Syed Kirmani. Kiri said that he could never be sure if the meat being served was Halal so he preferred to become a vegetarian for the duration of the tournament,” explained Man Singh. “Where the cricket was concerned, I did not interfere. I left it to Kapil Dev, Mohinder Aamarnath and the senior players to decide everything,” he added.
“Then in the final we faced the West Indies again. How we won the match at Lord’s is a famous story. That remarkable ball with which Balwinder Sandhu dismissed Gordon Greenidge, Kapil Dev’s fantastic catch to send back Viv Richards off the bowling of Madan Lal, and the collapse of the overconfident West Indies is a story that all cricket lovers know very well,” said Man Singh.
“But at the end, there was one more incident that I want to share. David Frith, the well known journalist had written disparagingly about the Indian team. He had written that such teams should not be allowed to play in the World Cup. After our victory, I wrote a strongly worded letter to him and suggested that he should now eat his own words. And I could hardly believe it, when a few days later, I saw a photo of him with a glass of wine in his hand and his mouth stuffed with the paper on which he had written his report. I am told he really ate that up. The film 83 has brought out all these interesting stories behind our great victory. I people will enjoy the film,” concluded Man Singh.
Abhijit Sen Gupta is a seasoned journalist who writes on Sports and various other subjects