In MS Dhoni: The Untold Story, biopic of India’s most successful captain, film large heartedly praises other Indian legends and his teammates Yuvraj Singh, Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and even Gautam Gambhir. In 800, it’s all about Muttiah Muralitharan, ignoring even his own 1996 World Cup teammates and other global Icons, such as Shane Warne! The movie gets so lost in celebrating Muralitharan that it forgets something pretty elementary: Cricket is a team sport!
In 800, Directed by M S Sripathy, Sri Lanka’s most iconic cricket figure Arjuna Ranatunga is turned into a gum-chewing mass hero and Aravinda de Silva is so effect less that he is a masterpiece of taxidermy. The Aussies in 800 are no better than the Aussies we had met in Awwal Number (Happy 100, Devsaab!), and Shane Warne is all uppity and no guile.
Sure, we all want them Kangaroos to be shrunk and shuttered (it’s the implicit fantasy of every 90s kid) but Sripathy’s crime is rather peculiar. If Kabir Khan’s ’83 was a cricket movie for people who hate cricket, this one goes a step further.
800 is a biographical drama about the life and career of Muttiah Muralitharan, and it gets so lost in celebrating its grand subject that it forgets something pretty elementary: Cricket is a team sport!
So Sri Lanka’s 1996 World Cup win is reduced to a single event: Murali getting a bear-hug from his captain. In a 1998 game against England that Mahela Jayawardene had almost single-handedly helped win, Murali hitting the winning run becomes the highlight.
When he is not hogging attention on the field, the Muralitharan of this movie keeps himself busy with geopolitical matters — such as lighting a candle in Velupillai Prabhakaran’s gloomy heart.
The frame story is equally ridiculous.
This 159-minute flick is that much self centered that In entire film, you don’t hear a word about his idols, there’s nothing about how the Sri Lankan government had supported him, no suggestion of any close friendships he had had with any of his team-mates.
Even then, despite its eagerness to build up its subject as a lone ranger, the spirit of Muralitharan never quite turns up in the picture.
‘800’ begins with a clash between Tamilians and Sinhalese, yet the film transcends cricket to explore the politics that influenced Murali’s career. Whether the political conflicts portrayed in the film are entirely accurate or not is open to debate. In fact, the depiction of the politics between India and Sri Lanka in the film appears somewhat convoluted and barely scratches the surface.
But coming to the cricketing aspects, ‘800’ ably captures Murali’s years as a kid, teenager and late teen till he took 800 wickets. And to see him carry the trauma and yet channel his energy towards cricket is inspiring. Though we don’t get to see how he worked on his spin, some of the calculative moments, which prove Murali’s prowess as a cricketer, could have been added to elevate the theatrical moments.
The film keeps us watching given the inherent drama in many of these episodes, but there are times when we yearn for deeper exploration. For example, while film shows the support that Murali had from his captain Arjuna Ranatunga (King Ratnam, who captures the laidback coolth of the Sri Lankan cricketer), we never see his equation with his other teammates, and how they viewed him, especially as the only Tamil cricketer in the side. Similarly, the film could have spent some time explaining the chucking allegation. In fact, throughout the first half, the film trods along without any emotional high (the writing leaves that job to Ghibran’s score), content with its ‘this happened, then this happened’ narration, which is kind of underwhelming because it’s a biopic of a man who describes his life as “a rough sea”.
All in all, it’s a forgettable movie! Not recommended for a single watch even!