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Leander Paes begins a new innings

Madhur Tankha
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Makes Bollywood debut in Rajdhani Express which hits the theatres today

His on-screen character is completely different from his real life personality. Indian tennis ace Leander Paes, whose debut film Rajdhani Express was released on Friday, likes to take up new challenges – whether on the tennis court or the big screen.

“Frankly speaking, this challenge to play a guy who is the complete opposite of me compelled me to take up this film. Once I started playing Keshav, I got completely transformed. He fights for his dignity and liberty. He has suppressed the anger inside him. He travels in a train to Mumbai to chase his dreams. Keshav is desperate to climb up the social ladder. But the people around him want to dominate over him. He feels a gun is a powerful instrument. The film shows how he uses a gun to fight for his pride and dignity,” says Leander, who was groomed at Anupam Kher’s film school.

Noting that his film speaks about liberty, equality and dignity, Leander says the common man would be able to identify with his character.

“Every woman or child who walks on the street wants to be treated with dignity and respect. They want to feel safe,” he says, referring to the recent gang-rape of a medical student and other incidents of sexual assault on women.

During the 45 consecutive days of shooting, Leander was barely able to catch two hours of sleep each day. “But hats off to the Rajdhani team which has worked non-stop to ensure that I look comfortable in front of the camera! It has given me an opportunity to play the leading role. I decided to venture into films because I thought the script was brilliant. I am proud of this project as this is my first journey as an actor,” says Leander.

Though this film is out in Hindi, Leander is coaxing his producers – Manoj Kejriwal, Nitika Kohli and Rajesh Patel – to have an English release as well.

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