Kaun Pravin Tambe movie review: Despite a fine knock by Shreyas Talpade, Hotstar biopic drops the ball

With the visual aesthetic of a Britannia biscuit ad circa 1998 and the storytelling charisma of a Star Sports highlights package, Kaun Pravin Tambe? is yet another reminder that despite our love for cricket and movies, we certainly seem to have a very difficult time making movies about cricket.

Starring a very earnest Shreyas Talpade as the titular late-bloomer, this is a largely by-the-numbers biopic that spends over two hours doing ‘tuk tuk’, refusing to allow Tambe’s flashy true story a chance at the crease. Virtually every sports film cliche—the scoffing boss, the doting love interest, the supportive sibling—is checked with dutiful dispassion.

Tambe rose to prominence after he became the oldest person to be selected for the IPL, and that too without having any prior professional experience. While it’s commendable that someone decided to make a film on a cricketing story that would normally have been restricted to the sports page, Kaun Pravin Tambe? is too unmemorable to bring it to the mainstream. A top scroll spot on the Hotstar homepage will probably be as elusive as a page one anchor.

The worst biopics are the ones that, because of their own inadequacies, paint their subjects to be equally mediocre. Naomi Watts once played Princess Diana in a forgotten film, and Leonardo DiCaprio starred as J Edgar Hoover in a movie so bizarre that he probably thanks his stars that he was unrecognisable through most of it. Neither film penetrated the minds of their protagonists in any meaningful way, which is just a massive waste of everybody’s time.

More recently, Kabir Khan’s 83—to use a tired sports expression—dropped the ball so dramatically that we’re going to have to wait for the outfield to regrow 15 times over before an attempt can be made to dramatise that majestic true story again. For better or worse, Kaun Pravin Tambe? is almost exactly like 83 in tone—it feels untouched by human hands, as if it were created by a bot who’d been fed a dozen editions of the Wisden almanac.

And so, after a bunch of purely comedic scenes that take us through the trials and tribulations of Pravin’s early life, we’re thrust headfirst into pivotal moments in which our protagonist literally goes through the paces. Like Mulund’s Forrest Gump, he runs into a motley crew of colourful characters along the way–a kind shipping magnate with a passion for the game, a veteran coach who takes him under his wing, and most curiously, a sports journalist named Rajat Sanyal, who for some baffling reason is projected as the film’s villain.

Played by the poor Parambrata Chatterjee, a fine actor who is consistently wasted in Hindi projects, the journalist also serves as the film’s narrator, and interrupts the narrative at key junctures to pass snarky remarks about Pravin. Rajat appears to have a permanent smirk plastered on his face, and has a fondness for reciting trivia off the top of his head. But nothing can top his prime passion in life: obsessing over Pravin. He spends most of his waking hours badmouthing him or fantasising about badmouthing him. If Param da’s moustache was even slightly more flamboyant, I’d be willing to bet that he’d twirl it.

After a point, you’ll understandably ask yourself, why? Did Pravin insult his mother? No. Did he steal his bike? I don’t think so. But going by Rajat’s behaviour, you’d think that he did both those things. What’s worse is that the film doesn’t even make its poor decisions with any conviction. Half the lies in the world travel because they’re told with confidence, and maybe, if the movie had doubled down on the villainsation of Rajat, it might have succeeded in beating us into submission. But towards the end of the film, we get a scene in which Rajat wonders why he’s been so mean to Pravin all his life. And you sit there, dumbstruck at the sheer audacity of this move.

While all the domestic stuff plays out like an episode of Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashmah— it’s riddled with over-the-top sound effects, plain lighting and SAB TV sitcom-level humour—the cricket scenes are nothing to write home about either. Most of them appear to be filmed by someone standing at the boundary line, creating such a vast distance between the viewer and the players that you’re never able to form a connection. By compositing the actors into original match footage, an IPL sequence at the end takes the same route that Neeraj Pandey’s MS Dhoni biopic took some years ago. This works on a visual level, but by focusing on only one random achievement and blurring the facts around it, the film once again displays an odd lack of confidence in Pravin’s story. When even a hat-trick isn’t enough, you wonder if anything ever will be.

Kaun Pravin Tambe? isn’t as unwatchable as the recent Hindi sports biopics such as Saina and Rashmi Rocket—remember those?—but it isn’t much better.

Kaun Pravin Tambe?
Director – Jayprad Desai
Cast – Shreyas Talpade, Parambrata Chatterjee, Ashish Vidyarthi, Anjali Patil
Rating – 2/5

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