Leander Paes talks about his first film and future projects

Ace tennis player Leander Paes makes his acting debut in Ashok Kohli’s upcoming movie Rajdhani Express: Point Blank Justice that’s scheduled to be released on January 4, 2013. Leander talks about his passion for acting and his plans to start his own production house some day.

You are an established sports personality. How did films come your way?

I believe India has multi-talented people, so I have also embarked on my journey as an actor. I had my first movie offer years ago, but it was not the right time. When director Ashok Kohli approached me with this script, I felt Keshav, my character, was real. I have got a lot being a tennis player — name, fame, respect and I want the same as an actor too. It’s too early to say this (laughs) because I have started as a new student, the rest the box office will decide.

What is your role in the movie?

I play Keshav, a common man and an errand boy for a gun-runner. He steals a weapon and a ticket to escape and travels by Rajdhani Express from Delhi to Mumbai.

What made you act in the movie? What was Rhea’s take on it?

I loved the story, the script and the challenge to play a character like Keshav who is a completely different personality from what I am in my real life. As for Rhea’s take, you have to ask her.

With no background in acting background, how was it to be in front of the camera for the first time?

It’s been a fantastic journey. I had full faith in my director, who turned out to be a great guide.

Did you undergo any training or attended any workshops?

No, I did not. I attended workshops where Ashok ji briefed me in-depth about my character in the film. That was important in helping me understand Keshav’s character from the director’s point of view.

How did you balance tennis and the movie as both are equally demanding with regards to commitment? How long did your shoot last?

I was working with nearly 400 people on this project (Rajdhani Express). There were times when my shoot used to clash with my tournaments but with the team’s support everything was on track. The shoot lasted for about 25 to 30 days.

What are you expecting from the audience who have seen you as an ace and accomplished tennis player?

Actors have an amazing audience who respect hard work and entertainment. I want that same love and recognition as an actor too.

How was it working with Ashok Kohli and co-star Jimmy Shergill?

I want to thank my director Ashok Kohli, , my director of photography Mohan Varma, who made me look good on screen; my spot boy, makeup artist, cinematographer — each one of them did an outstanding job.

It was a remarkable experience for me. I don’t have scenes with Jimmy but I did meet him on a few occasions. He is a good person and a great actor.

Are we going to see more of Leander Paes in movies?

Yes. I have three movies on my plate now.

You have taken to acting now, any plans of opening your own production house?

I am just one movie old so I have to understand films as an apprentice, as an actor, as a director and as a producer.

I love taking challenges as my name Leander means Lion Heart, so why not, yes I would like to have my own production house one day.