During the pandemic, the one thing that took the hit most intensely was sport. For months, there were no new competitions and while there were much bigger struggles our country was facing, in calmer moments, when Indians allowed themselves to think about the simpler times, they did miss cricket.
Now, when cricket did come back, it did so not only on the grounds but also in cinemas. Kaun Pravin Tambe? is the fourth big cricket movie released/announced in the last 2 years, hinting at a 'trend'.
That's a good thing, a very good thing, except cricket movies are hard to crack. For instance, 83 did not work for me, and it wasn't even because of the fact that I had huge expectations. The movie was not bad, it just failed to incite the emotions the story of an underdog's victory should have. Anyway, that is a separate discussion.
An underdog story that does hit the mark is Kaun Pravin Tambe? It is not a cinematic marvel, but I will say it is one of our best cricket movies. This is a pleasant coincidence (or not) because another great film based on the sport, our best in my opinion, is Iqbal - and both of these movies have the same lead, Shreyas Talpade.
Iqbal was Talpade's debut movie, and he played the character of a deaf and mute cricketer with such honesty, that his performance still holds.
I rewatched the movie a few months ago and felt myself being overwhelmed at the same beats I did all those years ago. That's some achievement.
Of course, the credit also goes to writer-director Nagesh Kukunoor, who managed to produce nuances and layers to keep the story just busy enough.
Iqbal was not just a movie about a boy with big dreams, it was also about inequality in society and inadequacy in people's hearts - and holding these strings together was the very able Shreyas Talpade who seemed cut out for the role.
It's interesting then but not entirely surprising that his second-best project is also the one that sees him play the character of a cricketer. A bowler at that, like Iqbal.
The similarities between the two movies are many. They are stories about a person who does not give up, people who support this person, and bigger issues that demand larger introspection.
However, there are also huge differences (beyond the fact that one is a fictional story and the other is not) and Shreyas manages to showcase them. The zeal of Iqbal is different from the zeal of Pravin, just like their persistence and helplessness.
They are both held back by circumstances, but these are not the same circumstances and Talpade makes sure this is evident on the screen.
Iqbal was a disabled person, from a family - run by a strict father - that is struggling to make ends meet. Pravin, on the other hand, is a father himself.
Their worlds are poles apart if you look at them closely and refrain from making generalisations. Shreyas realises that.
He captures the love of Pravin for his chosen sport with the utmost sensitivity. He knew what he was signing up for. This was a story of a man, who, without thinking of results, went and did what he liked.
He did not care about judgments, he did not even care about winning as much as he did about playing and in the end, it all paid off when he made his IPL debut at the age of 41. To pay tribute to such a figure could not have been easy, but if there was one actor capable of pulling it off, it was Shreyas.
In one of the most enduring scenes from the movie, Pravin gets a call from Rahul Dravid, who tells him to pack his bags and his kit and come to play for Rajasthan Royals.
His reaction to the news is contained, but you know his heart is bursting. This is one of Shreyas' strengths, he can act a lot through his eyes.
That is something that obviously helped him a lot with his portrayal of Iqbal, given he had no dialogues in the movie.
Life may not always seem like a poem but cricket always seems like its metaphor to those who love the sport. And a metaphor fails when it has to be explained. Shreyas can explain it without explaining, that is why he is so good at this.