Sports biopics, particularly cricket-based, are often the flavor du jour in Indian cinema. Most of these cricket films are about the rags-to-riches journey of the ‘superstar’ cricketers. But occasionally, we come across a welcome detour, and one such film is Kaun Pravin Tambe, which is about a humble Mumbaikar who retired from the game without playing even a single international match. Pravin Tambe, a completely unknown entity in Indian cricket, shot to fame by being picked by IPL team Rajasthan Royals as a 41-year-old. Imagine someone making a debut at an age when most cricketers hang up their boots. Kaun Pravin Tambe traces the life of a cricketer, who was never given a shot at proving his credentials but used the one opportunity to shut all his naysayers with his brilliant on-field performance.
Director: Jayprad Desai
Cast: Shreyas Talpade, Anjali Patil, Parambrata Chatterjee, Ashish Vidyarthi
The film kicks off with a present-day narrative where Pravin Tambe (Shreyas Talpade) is seen working as a construction supervisor. A father of two, he is constantly reminded of his responsibilities by his ever-nagging wife Vaishali (Anjali Patil). Despite the taunts, Pravin is determined to make it big. The narrative soon shifts to his growing-up years where we get to see how his interest in the game developed. With his elder brother supporting the family, Tambe is allowed to pursue his cricketing dreams but is constantly declined a spot in the Ranji team every passing year. Even as he has a family of his own, Pravin never stops pursuing his dream. Kaun Pravin Tambe captures the struggles he had to undergo to balance his cricket, profession, and personal life. At one point, he works as a bartender in a nightclub so that he can continue with his training during the daytime.
Sports biopics generally end with the “hero” finally representing the nation on an international stage. Most of these chest-thumping films intend to instill a sense of patriotism, but Kaun Pravin Tambe has no such lofty aspirations. Despite telling one of the most unlikely underdog stories to come out of Indian cricket, the film is surprisingly grounded. Although Pravin might not be a once-in-a-generation cricketer like Sachin Tendulkar or Virat Kohli, the late bloomer’s journey isn’t without twists that turn more than his leg breaks.
It is impressive how the makers let us in on the rather mundaneness of Pravin’s daily life. We are shown his social background, and how even the smallest of victories come despite the odds. Even his exhaustion about balancing his multiple roles never dilutes his spirit. In a world where age is not just a number, we see how his perseverance helps him look at the brighter side of things even in his darkest times. Shreyas Talpade puts on an earnest act and showcases his range as a performer. Who can forget Shreyas’ debut in Iqbal, which saw him play a cricketer facing completely different odds? Incidentally, 17 years later, it is the role of a cricketer that acts as a reminder that he still has it in him to headline a film. However, the ‘Tambe toughness’ is missing in his performance, which is sincere but doesn’t quite reflect the cricketer’s famed grit and aggression.
One of the drawbacks of the film is that barring Ashish Vidyarthi as Vidyadar Paradkar, Pravin’s coach, there is hardly another memorable character in the film. The conversations between the two are beautiful and organic, especially the scene where Pravin realises the value of his coach’s advice to try spin bowling, which indeed is the ‘turning’ point of his career.
Kaun Pravin Tambe is narrated from the perspective of Rajat Sanyal (Parambrata Chatterjee), a celebrated sports journalist. Usually in such films, the narrator is either the protagonist himself or one of his admirers. But here, Rajat is an envious person who tries to put the cricketer down whenever possible. Rajat’s dislike for Pravin stems from the jealousy of a failed cricketer. While Rajat’s character doesn’t bring much to the table except for serving the purpose of a namesake villain, the resolution point between him and Pravin is one of the most gratifying moments in the film.
Kaun Pravin Tambe is no 83 or an MS Dhoni: The Untold Story, and the lack of budget is evident in how the cricketing portions, especially the IPL scenes, are filmed. These sequences notwithstanding, director Jayprad Desai manages to weave a moving portrayal of a cricketer who might not be as flamboyant as other cricketers immortalised on screen, but is definitely all heart.