There is a scene in the movie Kaun Pravin Tambe? in the buildup to the climax when things finally turn for the 41-year-old bowler after being stuck in an endless loop of patience, persistence, and perseverance for years. His former teammate in the Mumbai club cricket Abey Kuruvilla, who is now his boss, gets him on a video call with Rahul Dravid. It is 2013. The former captain of the Indian national team asks Tambe—who had never played an A-league match till then—to join Rajasthan Royals for the Indian Premier League.
Though long overdue and very well deserved, the moment springs up on Tambe so suddenly, that it takes his breath away. So much so that he cross-questions Dravid on the offer. Shreyas Talpade, who plays Tambe in this film based on the cricketer's life, enacts this crucial scene with commendable restraint and nuance. He doesn’t explode in tears at the realisation of a lifelong dream. But I did. I wept. And wept. And wept. For Tambe. For Talpade. For me. And for countless others across the world who sacrifice and suffer in countless big and small ways to make a dream happen.
Tambe’s obsessive madness for cricket reminded me of F Scott Fitzgerald’s doomed hero Jay Gatsby, who tried relentlessly to chase the forever elusive green light. It also reminded me of the two protagonists of Damien Chazelle’s 2016 musical romance La La Land. One an aspiring actress yearning for her big Hollywood break, the other a struggling jazz pianist. Both consumed by their craft, both unwilling to let go. The film’s iconic music album has a song Audition (The Fools Who Dream) which has, over the years, become an anthem of sorts among the rare breed of those who dare to believe. Its lyrics go: Here's to the ones who dream, foolish as they may seem. Here's to the hearts that ache, here's to the mess we make.
As I watched Tambe’s life unfold on screen, The Fools Who Dream kept playing softly in my head. The two films have nothing in common except that they tell the stories of people who refused to give up; who may have taken detours in the face of adversity but they never stopped believing in themselves and their goals, no matter how improbable it looked or however many times they were written off for it. When the going got tough, they got tougher.
In Kaun Pravin Tambe? when a friend scoffs at Tambe and tells him, “Either you’re great or you’re crazy,” I couldn’t help but roll my eyes. Talpade’s Tambe, however, does not. He simply says, “If I get successful, then great. If not, then crazy.” However, success did not come early or easy to Tambe. Despite having started playing the game when he was a boy, he got his first professional break at 41, becoming the oldest player to be selected in IPL. The film, directed by Jayprad Desai, is the story of why it took Tambe this long.
If you look at it, the medium-pace-bowler-turned-leg-spinner wasn’t deterred by anything monumental. It was just life and the choices he made that kept coming his way. To Desai’s and writers Kiran Yadnyopavit’s (story and screenplay) and Kapil Sawant’s (dialogues) credit, they have narrated this remarkable life story in a most everyday manner. Unlike Kabir Khan’s 83, which used its background score to dictate to the audience how to feel, Kaun Pravin Tambe? deploys no schmaltzy tunes or rousing drumrolls as cues. It is why you’re as surprised as Tambe is upon his IPL selection and just as elated.
Sure, Kaun Pravin Tambe? is no Iqbal, the memorable Nagesh Kukunoor film that marked Talpade’s Bollywood debut 17 years ago. But it stands close in how it celebrates hard work, grit, the stubbornness to excel, and playing the sport for the joy of it. Not all dreams come true. Not everyone who wishes to play the Ranji Trophy gets to do it, even at 42.
Therefore, when you choose to tell the story of someone who did make it happen with means as limited as Tambe had in a country as unashamedly ageist as ours, you send out a powerful message. That it’s possible. If he could, you can too. That no obstacle is too big and no time too late. That to err, is human. That despite your best efforts, sometimes, you may not make it. But what if you do? It’s that sliver of hope that you need to hang on to. Make it your green light. Chase it. Who knows where it might take you.