No easy way for Leander Paes

Saturday, 29 December 2012 - 10:03am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

Ace tennis star Leander Paes reveals why he waited for 16 years for a Bollywood debut despite having offers since his Olympic win.

By regular Bollywood standards making a debut as a hero at age 39 would in all likelihood be considered a late entry. But add the name of tennis ace Leander Paes to the age and the number of years simply cease to matter as they make way for the number of awards the sports star has won instead. Point it out to Leander and he smiles, “I could have made my debut 16 years back when I was first offered a film in 1996, a few days post my win at the Olympics. And it was by all standards the perfect launch material too — about a struggling boy who overcomes all odds and goes on to become a sports star. Everything was great, except that I had lived that story already and there was no challenge in playing that role. I don’t believe in getting it easy. I’ve never taken an easy way out,” says Leander, who then chose to wait for the right script and in the meantime go on to win some more accolades on the courts. Ask him about the switch from facing the cameras for sports channels to now facing it for the big screen and Lee reveals, “The acting bug had bitten me right from when I was a kid, it’s just that I’m letting the bite show now!” As for the ‘big’ switch, he says, “I have done everything I could do in tennis, and now I only play out of passion. I am looking at acting as my career now and to be honest there was no nervousness about the switch or facing this camera either. I have never been nervous in my life, not even when I had set out as a 12-year-old on a train to move towards realising my dreams years ago.” He embarks on his Bollywood journey, with Rajdhani Express — Point Blank Justice, where he plays an aam aadmi on a train journey. Talking about the film, he says that the subject is dark and gritty. “My character is very intense. He even abuses, but I’m nothing like that in real life. It was a chance to turn myself around, that was exciting,” he smiles. “I have always taken challenges head on, and given my 100 per cent. That’s my approach here too.”

Gearing for the release soon, the tennis star says that next on his cards is authoring a graphic novel, post which he will begin work on his next film. “The graphic novel is an action thriller on the lines of Mission Impossible and James Bond films. I’d love to someday do an action film too,” he shares. And Hollywood? “It’s not off my radar,” adds Lee. As for tennis, he says that it won’t take a backseat either. “Tennis will always be my first love and it will always be a part of me. I will plan my shoots around it,” Leander explains. But what would he like to be introduced as by his daughter — who he admits is his inspiration — an actor or a sports legend? “That I leave to her. I am happy knowing that no matter what I do, I’m always her hero.” As for his sports fans, he adds, “I hope they stay with me on my bandwagon and I can add more as an actor too.”

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