Kaun Pravin Tambe? review: Shreyas Talpade epitomizes the undying spirit of the humble cricketer

Stats will never tell the story behind the journey of the resilient Mumbai cricketer who blossomed much late into his career.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

By Mayur Lookhar

The underwhelming theatrical performance of superstar Ranveer Singh’s 83 [2021] had cricket connoisseurs and like-minded critics in a fix. If a film on Indian cricket team’s maiden limited overs international World Cup win was not enough to capture the nation’s pulse, then how would such audience react to a film that is titled Kaun Pravin Tambe? [2022] (Who is Pravin Tambe?)  The producers Fox Star Studios were wise enough to opt for an OTT [Over-The-Platform] release. Not that the film wasn’t capable of some theatrical success, but maybe, given the nature of their film, it was likely to draw more attention on the web.

Pravin Vijay Tambe is no great of the game.  He doesn’t boast of any great record. In fact, he hasn’t even played any international cricket. Yet in 2013, he became the story of the Indian Premier League after he became the oldest cricketer [41] to bag a player contract at the cash-rich Indian T20 League. The underdog story didn’t stop at his age as the resilient leg-spinner justified his inclusion in the Rajasthan Royals franchise with impressive performances. He would later join few other franchises, and also make his dream Ranji Trophy debut playing for his home city Mumbai in 2014. Although he just played two first-class games, but this late-bloomer became an inspiration for aspiring and struggling cricketers. Remember even greats like Padmakar Shivalkar and Rajendra Goel never played for India.

While Tambe doesn’t have great numbers to speak, but it his fighting spirit, the never-say-die attitude that becomes the basis for director Jayprad Desai and writer Kiran Yadnyopavit [screenplay] to tell his story.

Globally, sports is a young man’s game, and especially in team sports. There can only be 11 players playing, and usually four players on the bench. Leave aside playing for India, but it’s a herculean challenge to get even a game for your state, or simply be a part of the state squad. Having begun late, age was never going to be on his side but the Mumbai medium-pacer still longed to have that one chance at destiny.  Playing for India was next to impossible, the man simply longed to play that one first-class game for Mumbai.

The film’s disclaimer points out how this is based on true stories but it is not a biography or a documentary. That perhaps opened the door for director to incorporate drama in this story. And Desai has perhaps used certain creative liberties to the Pravin Tambe story. All through his trials and tribulations, Tambe [Shreyas Talpade] stands out for his undying spirit. The moments of despair threaten to break that spirit but for Tambe cricket is life. The stats, records all come second, most sportsmen simply play the game for the love of it.  No record can match the feeling of being out on the cricket field and plying your skills.  It’s that child-like passion for the game that kept players like Tambe going on and on.

It is this passion that is reflected in the eyes of Shreyas Talpade all through the film.  The title rekindled memories of the popular headline involving yet another humble cricketer Noel David. It was during India’s tour of West Indies 1997 that the then Indian captain Sachin Tendulkar had reacted with the words ‘Noel who?’ when the selectors informed him of sending this player for the ODI series. David was good, and lucky enough to live the India dream briefly, but thousands like Tambe couldn’t even get to their state side for many years.

Talpade (46) was a fine pick to play Tambe. Here’s a man who has never been counted among the superstars of Bollywood. He impressed early but much like Tambe, Talpade’s career, too, has seen its ebb and flow.  Yours truly met the actor few years ago, where he cut a slightly frustrated look. No, he wasn’t pissed off with anyone, but perhaps discontent with the way his career has panned out thus far. Talpade can relate to Pravin Tambe’s frustrations. Talpade brings that sincerity, that passion to his character. It couldn’t be better defined in that dialogue where the man tells his mother, “I will only work in a cricket [or cricket related] company”.  It’s not just the passion, but Talpade does well to bring out the frustrations of Tambe. Most cricketers tend to slide once they touch 32-33. Here is a man who at 34 is still playing club cricket in the hope that one day he will realize his big Ranji dream.

Both Tambe and director Desai deserve credit for they haven’t shied from showing the vulnerability of the cricketer. This stems from the tension-filled relationship with his new coach Vidyadhar Paradkar [Ashish Vidyarthi], the man who was also Indian speedster Zaheer Khan’s coach.  The ego comes through when Tambe refuses to acknowledge Paradkar’s advice of him switching to leg-spin. That comebacks to bite the medium-pacer later. 

Tambe shares a loving relationship with his family, wife [played by Anjali Patil] and kid, but the tough career choices naturally bring tension to the family too. There is no attempt to hide this tension in the family.

Talpade delivers a Man of the Match performance. He played the deaf and mute cricketer in and as Iqbal [2005]. But the toil is perhaps much harder here. Talpade is the driving factor of this underdog story but he is also ably backed the likes of Vidyarthi, Patil and Parambrata Chatterjee.  The Bengali is no villain, but he is the doubting Thomas in this story. Journalist Rajat Sanyal [Chatterjee] always questioned the wisdom to have an old player like Tambe in any squad. He has his reasons for it, but as he later reveals, it is perhaps his own frustration of a failed cricketer that corrupted his judgment of Tambe.  Sanyal is there to witness the many lows but also the few highs of Tambe.

Though largely engaging, the early part especially the back-and-forth sequences could get confusing for the inattentive viewer.  However, one can never take your eyes of Talpade.   The famous Rahul Dravid speech of hailing Tambe as his inspiration was no flattery, but it is the many tribulations that made the legend of Pravin Tambe. If you didn’t know about him earlier, you sure won’t be asking Who is Pravin Tambe after watching this fine film.

Kaun Pravin Tambe? is currently streaming on Disney + Hotstar. Watch the trailer below.


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