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Leander makes Bollywood debut

Friday, December 28, 2012
By Sandeep Hattangadi

Tennis sensation Leander Paes is all set to make his big screen debut with ‘Rajdhani Express’. We spoke to the Olympic medalist and Grand Slam champion at the music launch of his film, and here is what he had to say.

What made you opt for films? Especially since other sportsmen who did the same have a poor record at the box office?
I had practically achieved everything in tennis, and I had always been fascinated by cinema. So when I got the call from director Ashok Kohli, whose script I liked, especially that of my character ‘Keshav’, I immediately said yes to the film. As for my success, that will be decided after the film releases.

What is your character like?

Keshav is an errand boy for a gun runner, who steals a weapon and a ticket to escape, which is of a Rajdhani Express from Delhi to Mumbai. Inside the train, his fate is no better. Distanced, ridiculed and humiliated, he reacts by pointing the gun at his co-passengers. He is scar faced, frustrated, resentful, envies others who are better than him and craves for dignity. He is self respecting, yet coveting, brooding, humorous and intelligent. Keshav basically tries to free himself in order to find his worth.

How did you prepare for this character?
The character is nothing like me, so I had to depend on my director. I did a few workshops, but I haven’t been to any acting school or done any acting course of any sort.

How was your experience at the film’s shoot?

It was a great experience, with a unit of more than 400 people and a very creative technical team, especially the cinematographer, who made me look good on screen. We had a great team of actors like Priyanshu Chatterjee, Jimmy Shergill, Puja Bose, Mukesh Rishi, Sudhanshu Bose, Sayali Bhagat, etc. But we had a bad experience when one of the technical crew died in an accident, which was a cause of great grief for us.

Would you like to start a production house like Mahesh Bhupati?
At some point of time; now I just want to celebrate acting and I have three films at hand. But Mira Nair wants to make a film on my success story, and I would like to produce that film.

Do you feel movie stars are worshipped more than sport stars?

That is debatable. But I have seen a frenzy for movie stars, such that fans try to get close to them, tear off their shirts and get their autographs and all. But sport is more intellectual, and all about respect and pride for representing your country.

Given a choice, what remake would you like to work in?
‘Amar Akbar Anthony’ is my favorite film and I would like to play Amit jee’s role from that film; also ‘Sholay’, which is my all time favorite.

What would you like to change in Hindi cinema?
I would like to see good scripts written by talented screenwriters.

Game, Set and Match to Leander Paes!

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