‘Kaun Pravin Tambe?’ movie review: The late bloomer deserves a chance

In one of the finest examples of truthful acting, Shreyas Talpade embodies Tambe’s never-say-die spirit with an immensely sincere performance that keeps us glued to the narrative

April 02, 2022 02:31 pm | Updated 02:38 pm IST

A still from ‘Kaun Pravin Tambe?’

A still from ‘Kaun Pravin Tambe?’

In the last few years, sports biopics in Hindi cinema have become like an Indian Premier League game where the director wants the audience to be the cheerleader dancing to a rousing background score. Most of them only showcase the making of a star. There is hardly any space for the stories of hundreds of those talented and determined players who could not make it to the top leagues and are casually labeled under-achievers. The algorithm-like screenplays of such films have little space for the struggle with self-doubts and inner demons that often hinder a sportsperson’s growth in the cutthroat environment.

This week is an exception, as director Jayprad Desai traces the life and times of Pravin Tambe who kept slogging away in the local division leagues for years in the hope that one day he would make it to the Mumbai Ranji squad. Here is the story of an underdog who doesn’t necessarily want to be the top dog by the climax. Ultimately, he catches the eye of Rahul Dravid, who perhaps carries a Tambe inside him, and is picked for the Indian Premier League. By that time Tambe has crossed 40 but, as one of the selectors says, his battery is fully charged. As Tambe hits the stumps and makes it to the headlines, the adjective quickly spins from under-achiever to late bloomer.

More than the action on the ground, how the man from Mulund keeps fueling his modest dream makes for a riveting watch. The moments with his family, friends, and coach create an enchanting tapestry of emotions that make you believe in honesty, hard work, and a dash of luck. Screenwriter Kiran Yadnyopavit generates situations that feel light but penetrate the conscience.

Tambe does odd jobs to keep the kitchen running and sells his man of the match prizes to pay for the school fees of his son, but the most interesting segment is the one where his coach Vidyadhar Paradkar (Ashish Vidyarthi) tries to turn the medium-pacer into a leg spinner. Imagine a Bharatanatyam dancer being asked to perform Kathak one day; it provides an insight into a player’s mind in popular idiom and the role of a good coach on the ground called life.

In one of the finest examples of truthful acting, Shreyas Talpade embodies Tambe’s never-say-die spirit and provides an interesting counterpoint in these Yo-Yo times when players are expected to wear their attitude on their short sleeves.

It is not just the bowling action, Shreyas showcases Tambe’s unflinching attitude with no artifice. In a way, Tambe’s career graph is similar to Shreyas’, as the actor also could not make it to the next level despite being consistently good and persevering. 

As Iqbal (2005), he has been on the pitch before, but Shreyas ensures that Tambe doesn’t evoke the memory of Iqbal. It is his sincere performance that keeps us glued even when the screenplay becomes flabby and the storytelling fumbles.

In sports journalist Sanyal (Parambrata Chatterjee), writer Kiran Yadnyopavit has created a flaky obstacle in the path of Tambe. He could have been just one of the voices to represent the ecosystem, but Desai gives too much importance to a journalist who is simply jealous of Tambe’s fortitude.

Curiously, the film doesn’t discuss the new-found utility of ‘all rounders’, with the advent of T-20 cricket where age is not as much a factor as in a five-day game. Once called bits-and-pieces players for the traditional format, the Indian Premier League has helped them find a footing in all forms of cricket. Curiously, Tambe got to play Ranji after his IPL debut. It doesn’t talk about the need for characters in dugouts whose interesting backstories could fill the honey story space on news pages. The film also doesn’t address why a journalist would block the path of a cricketer who could become a good copy.

More importantly, the background score doesn’t go with the heartfelt performances. It strikes the same stock tunes that forces the discerning audience to press the mute button. Maybe the director wants to showcase the not-so-sophisticated milieu where Tambe belongs, but, still, it doesn’t go with the personality of the film.

Having said that, Desai has populated the screen space with a competent support cast. Anjali Patil (as Tambe’s wife Vaishali), Chhaya Kadam (Tambe’s mother), and Vidyarthi ensure that there is no miscommunication while running between the wickets and the late bloomer gets his due.

Kaun Pravin Tambe? is streaming on Disney+Hotstar

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