Life is who you are and what you do, says the hero of Kaun Pravin Tambe? The question mark in the title refers to Tambe’s struggle on both counts.
Jayprad Desai’s film, which was released on Disney+ Hotstar, is based on the real-life experiences of Pravin Tambe, the cricketer who made his Indian Premier League debut at the ripe old age of 41. Kiran Yadnyopavit’s screenplay portrays Tambe (Shreyas Talpade) as a lowly, unlikely director who overcomes financial constraints, self-doubt, and derision to pursue his dreams.
Pravin’s only ambition is to qualify for the Ranji Trophy. Despite balancing uninviting jobs with long hours of training, the all-rounder is forced to represent his company in Times Cricket Shield tournaments.
Trophies and blender-grinders are piling up, along with the years. Pravin takes wickets and scores points into his thirties. Opportunities arise, only to fade away. Pravin’s cause is not helped by his outspokenness and inability to gossip with the powers that be.
Ranji’s coaches admire Pravin’s talent but balk at his age. Pravin’s wife, Vaishali (Anjali Patil), despairs of her monomania. Coach Vidyadhar (Ashish Vidyarthi) tells Pravin to play differently for better results. Arrogant sports journalist Rajat Sanyal (Parambrata Chattopadhyay) dismisses Pravin as an unsuitable big league cricketer.
As well as fleshing out Tambe’s endearing personality and dynamic wit, Kiran Yadnyopavit’s screenplay has a satisfying touch of humor. Some of the best moments are when Pravin wins hyperlocal events and earns the admiration of female fans.
Jayprad Desai, whose previous works include Marathi film Nagrik and the web series Hutatma, leads the journey from underdog to superdog through Mumbai’s chawls and maidans. The film gives a very real sense of cricket as it is played away from flooded stadiums and glitzy IPL matches. The important role of private companies in employing athletes and enabling them to balance a sport with a regular income is also revealed.
Cricket is the only constant for Pravin as he jumps from job to job to survive. From working as a supervisor at a construction company to waiting tables at a bar, Pravin does whatever it takes to stay in the game. Lead actor Shreyas Talpade, whose credits include Nagesh Kukunoor’s cricket theme Iqbal (2005), immerses himself in his character. Talpade emotionally plays the persevering athlete, like the spider encountered by Scottish king Robert the Bruce.
Kaun Pravin Tambe? is modest in its narrative style, but not in its length. In an attempt to paint a complete portrait, the 133-minute film devotes several scenes to the dynamics of the Tambe family. There is also too much streak of Pravin’s struggles.
As slow as Pravin Tambe’s feat at times, the biopic nonetheless functions as an ode to thinking small and scoring big. Pravin’s idea of a honeymoon is to travel to Dhapoli, just over 200 km from Mumbai.
What followed is the stuff of legend. If Pravin Tambe didn’t exist, he would have had to be invented.