Shreyas Talpade on journey from Iqbal to Kaun Pravin Tambe?: Happy to return as a player, not coach
Shreyas Talpade returns as a cricketer 17 years after his breakout film
17 years ago, Shreyas Talpade broke out as a deaf and mute cricketer in Iqbal. The film, directed by Nagesh Kukunoor, told of a Muslim village boy and his aspiration to play for the national team. It’s still widely talked about, and is seen as the highlight of Shreyas’ career, much of it consumed with mainstream Hindi comedies in later years. That is, up until this Friday. His latest, Kaun Pravin Tambe?, is about the determined Mumbai cricketer who, at the unbelievable age of 41, made his IPL debut. Pravin is played onscreen by Shreyas, who returns to both cricket and gritty dramatic roles with the film.
“After Iqbal, I had auditioned for a comedy film and was rejected,” Shreyas chuckles. “I was told I had a ‘serious’ image. Ironically, I got to a point where I am now known for comedies and it’s a challenge to get back to dramas.”
The story of Pravin Tambe, Shreyas says, resonated with him deeply. Born and raised in Mumbai, Pravin transitioned from fast to spin bowling while struggling to hold down a job. Family responsibilities bound him to the local club circuit. He was named in the Mumbai Ranji probables but was not drafted. Finally, after a decade’s anonymity, he made his IPL debut in 2013, under then Rajasthan Royals skipper Rahul Dravid.
“Pravin’s age factor was always a problem with selectors,” Shreyas says. “He hated that. So what if someone is 35 or 40? If they can perform, they should be allowed to play.”
For prep, Shreyas had long sessions with Pravin, learning his bowling action and mannerisms on field. The actor mulled putting on weight but decided against it (he’s playing Pravin from his 20s through 42). YouTube highlights show a smiling, expressive, highly animated player—“When you are appealing for a wicket, you don’t care about looks.” Most important, though, was capturing the wheezy optimism that Pravin represents. “He can come across as naïve about certain things,” Shreyas says. “He genuinely believes that age is just a number.”
Shooting was another matter. Shreyas was 30 when he played the 18-year-old Iqbal. Now 47, his body reeled from the exacting regimen of the game. Once, he injured his knee bowling in spikes and could not run. Nevertheless, he powered through, much like his character. “A great deal of the action in the film is natural. It was a delight taking wickets on my own. The supporting actors were all cricketers.”
The film's comment on ageism isn't limited to cricket alone. Shreyas points out that, were it not for Pravin Tambe’s story, he would be playing a coach by now. “Iqbal coach ban gaya! (Iqbal has become a coach) is usually the norm. I am so happy I got to return as a player.”
Kaun Pravin Tambe? releases on Disney+ Hotstar on April 1.