Indian cricket has given many great sportspersons to the world. Their feats on the field have immortalised them, not only in the hearts and minds of the fans, but also in the history of the sport. A few such stories have found their way to the silver screen too, e.g., Sachin, M.S. Dhoni, ‘83, Azhar. And there are a few upcoming ones to look out for, like Shabaash Mithu (featuring Tapsee Pannu) and Chakda Xpress (featuring Anushka Sharma) on the lives of Mithali Raj and Jhulan Goswami respectively, who’ve represented India at the highest level for over two decades each. However, this biopic on Pravin Tambe stands out.
Pravin’s story is inspiring to say the least. It has all the key ingredients that make a good film - it’s a sports biopic, it’s the story of an underdog from a lower-middle class background who has his fair share of struggles and overcomes them to make it big on the world’s stage. Sounds cliche right? Pravin made his debut at the age of 41 in the 2013 Indian Premier League (IPL), playing for Rajasthan Royals. This makes him the IPL's oldest ever debutant, till date. Despite the fame and recognition that came with the IPL, Pravin’s story leading up to all that remained lesser known. Starring Shreyas Talpade as the lead, Kaun Pravin Tambe? spotlights Pravin’s journey.
Prior to the IPL, Pravin never had any experience playing domestic first-class cricket, let alone international cricket. Pravin played maidan cricket (local cricket; maidan literally translates to ground) in Mumbai for almost 20 years before he got a break in the IPL. Keeping at it consistently, for 20 years, without any recognition brings a totally different meaning to having passion for the game and having relentless belief in one’s dream. He dreamt of representing Mumbai at the Ranji trophy tournaments. To that end, he kept playing year after year, working on himself and his game. He had impeccable levels of fitness for a 41-year old debutant at the IPL and always ensured that his performance in the game never suffered.
Being a sportsperson is tough in India, more so in the case of cricket, which is by far the most popular sport in the country. Thousands of youth put in their sweat and blood every year, trying to make it, if not in the top 11, at least in first-class cricket. It’s highly competitive and many aspirants who don’t make the cut eventually give up on their dreams. While there are some organisations (private and public) that provide employment to promising sportspersons and support them to keep playing while giving them a fallback option for their careers, the aspirants outnumber the vacancies. While keeping his cricket dream alive, Pravin had to do odd jobs to bring food to the table for his family. His wife’s and his family’s support have a special significance in his journey.
With this film, Shreyas Talpade’s acting career has completed a circle; he debuted his Bollywood career by starring in Nagesh Kukknoor’s Iqbal, playing the role of a deaf and mute aspiring cricketer. His experience with a cricket-based film might be why his performance shines throughout the film and he’s closely managed to capture Pravin’s on-field presence as well as his off-field personality. The film-making has a good balance between the documentary-style and the creative liberties that are typical of Bollywood. However, the film-makers have stayed away from sensationalising the story.
After making a stellar IPL debut, Pravin became the leading wicket-taker in the Champions League T20 later that year. His performance earned him his first call-up for the Mumbai team in the 2013–14 Ranji Trophy. Till date, Pravin continues to coach and play cricket and has the stamina to bowl 20 overs in a day in competitive tournaments. Apart from his struggles, the film touches various themes such as the comradeship amongst sportspersons, dealing with trust-issues, pressure created by the media, etc. While Pravin’s circumstances and journey shown in the film are easy to relate, his passion, persistence and belief are truly out of this world and what earn the film a spot on the watch-list for the family.