Directors: Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari, Nitesh Tiwari
Cast: Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi as themselves
Streaming on: ZEE5
If my memory serves me right, I saw tennis champions Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi on TV in a suiting commercial playing cricket. The curiosity factor was in fact cricket, a sport I loved like any other kid in India. That memory got refreshed in the series Break Point which lands on ZEE5 today. The story behind that commercial is as dramatic as the commercial. Not giving any details now. Paes and Bhupathi are the poster boys of Indian tennis, in fact, Indian sports other than cricket which continues its dominance w.r.t. popularity and money.
What the ace duo, who used to be called as Indian Express when they played together, have achieved on the international tennis arena is remarkable. In India, sports and sportspersons other than cricket/cricketers don’t get any recognition till they win a medal or tournament on a global platform. Once they do, the nation goes crazy for them. Look at the adulation Neeraj Chopra received after winning the historic Olympic gold in Tokyo this year. These athletes deserve every bit of that adulation.
Paes and Bhupathi have been world champions. They have been idols for other tennis stars like Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna. This makes me think, how many athletes can we name other than cricketers? We have to go on the internet to know beyond Saina Nehwals and PV Sindhus (both badminton champs). Hindi cinema has been making biopics of sportspersons for almost a decade now. Neeraj Pandey’s MS Dhoni: The Untold Story and Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Bhaag Milkha Bhaag claim the top spots on that list. Looking at the subject and conflict of Break Point, documentary was the best medium to tell the story.
Directors Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari (Neel Battey Sannata, Bareilly Ki Barfi) and Nitesh Tiwari (Dangal, Chhichhore) are at the helm of things. But there’s hardly a master’s touch to this loose documentary series. Hearing Paes and Bhupathi story from themselves is the best thing. The journey of struggle and passion is remarkable. The research is solid but the storytelling is weak. The series dwells into many aspects of their journey. But most of the time, it’s just plain information. An alpha Leander Paes speaks with passion. In comparison, Mahesh Bhupathi is laid back and reserved. Apparently, that’s what worked for them when they played on the court. Both of them tell their sides of the story and so do their family members, friends and fellow tennis champs. It is quite informative but getting only information can be boring sometimes.
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These anecdotes are interspersed with some original video footage and photographs. At times, some stock footage has also been used to recreate some incidents like young Paes practicing, waiting for a message reply, aerial shots of the cities while referring to the championship events like Wimbledon, US Open, French Open etc. A simple black slate with text on it would have also done the trick. Going purely by the final outcome, the solid research could have been executed by any documentary maker(s). The top billing director duo here only means bigger scale in terms of production and money. To be honest, the production quality is inconsistent throughout the series. It is evident that parts of the documentary were shot during the pandemic, so we can probably give exemption to that poor Chroma work.
Would have not minded if these two champs were sitting on a chair in a studio reminiscing about their journey with as much original visuals as possible to intersperse. Frankly, the shenanigans used here don’t add any value to this average docu-series. The real conflict in the series is the differing takes of individuals on the same events. It’s difficult to incorporate these takes into a narrative. That’s where BreakPoint loses its plot. The narrative lacks the grip to keep you engaged. Had to slog through some episodes only because I had to review the series.