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What to Watch This Weekend: ‘Kaun Pravin Tambe?’ Or ‘Love Hostel’

Our verdict on the real-life story of a determined Mumbai cricketer and an urban thriller starring Bobby Deol

Suparna Sharma Apr 14, 2022
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Kaun Pravin Tambe? : A medium pace bowler who gets to spin

Cast: Shreyas Talpade, Anjali Patil, Parambrata Chatterjee, Ashish Vidyarthi

Direction: Jayprad Desai

Rating: ★★★½

Streaming on Disney+ Hotstar

With age, most of us lose sight of our childhood dreams. Adulting, we are told, means forgetting these dreams and moving on. And so they wilt, shoved into a corner of our heads, an entry in our list of personal failures, disappointments or just, life, as it happens.

Kaun Pravin Tambe? is about a man who refused to take his eyes off his goal even for a second, even when he was 40, and even when everyone around him said that his time was up.

Based on the real life story of Pravin Tambe who made his debut in professional cricket (IPL) at the age of 41, Kaun Pravin Tambe?, written by Kiran Yadnyopavit and directed by Jayprad Desai, is a humbling, inspiring, lovely film that shows what the adage “against all odds” really means.  

Like most sports films, Kaun Pravin Tambe?, has a simple, predictable trajectory, beginning with talent and obsession in childhood, and ending on a teary smile. But in between lies the story of a man determined to change his fate, and the toll it takes. 

Born in a chawl in Mumbai’s Mulund area, Pravin Tambe would play cricket all the time. He’d be in the local park bowling, or be the opening batsman in gully matches. And when he’d return home, he’d tell his parents that one day soon, when he plays for the Ranji Trophy, they will be watching him from the stadium’s VIP seats.

Pravin (Shreyas Talpade) grows up and keeps trying to make it to the Ranji squad while playing for local clubs, but the selectors don’t see him. He keeps trying when he gets married, has kids, and while working for Orient Shipping company because it has a cricket team that needs a medium-pace bowler to compete in a corporate tournament for the Times Shield. 

Pravin finds a coach and, unbeknownst to him, a foe in a journalist (Parambrata Chatterjee) who seems to hold a personal grudge against the “gully cricketer”.  The coach (Ashish Vidyarthi) sees potential in Pravin. He also sees that Pravin can spin and asks him to change his game. But Pravin is too set in his medium-pace ways, too scared to lose his mojo, too worried that the change will cost him the chance at playing for the Ranji Trophy.

Kaun Pravin Tambe? is written with honesty and is all heart. It doesn’t try to embellish or exaggerate Parvin’s talent or his hardship. The film stands apart from other sports films because instead of focussing just on Pravin’s talent and failure, on highs and lows, it stays focused on his casual but existential need to play professional cricket while mourning the price his obsession demands of him and those who love him.  

The film spends a lot of time in Pravin’s tiny chawl house, creating strong, familial bonds and treating us to the cutest suhaag raat scene ever. But it also shows how maddening and costly the pursuit of a dream can get for those who have very little, but lots to lose. 

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While he is growing up, we spend time with his mother who wants him to focus on getting a good job and be a responsible, earning member of the family like his elder brother. And later we watch his wife support him while wanting him to be present for her and their children’s needs. 

Though many of the characters who make up Pravin’s world don’t have much screen time, the film is able to etch out each one as distinct and special. His mother, father, brother, wife, kids, fellow cricketers and friend-cum-boss Abey Kuruvilla (Nitin Rao), each one contributes a little towards his goal of playing professional cricket, and each one pays the price for it.

Pravin’s struggle to be taken seriously as a cricketer is unrelenting. The selectors don’t see his talent, and his family doesn’t see his passion. Yet he refuses to take up jobs that pay well but won’t let him play cricket. He applies for jobs only at companies that have a cricket team, and when these jobs disappear, he opts to work as a waiter at a dance bar just so that he can practice in the day, and have a shot at playing the Ranji tournament. 

There are moments in the film when I, too, felt the burden of Pravin’s obsession. But there were also moments when I found myself howling loudly. It wasn’t at big, dramatic scenes. It was always at small, gentle scenes in which Shreyas Talpade conveys, often with his head bowed and without saying a word, that he apologizes to the world for his love for cricket, but his ambition to play for Mumbai is unwavering. 

Shreyas Talpade is a very fine actor. He is also light-footed and is able to carry Parvin Tambe’s zid, his obsession and the accompanying embarrassment at being so fixated on cricket with dignity, humility and joy. He doesn’t just do justice to the madness of a man who won’t give up. He constructs Pravin Tambe out of his abiding faith in his talent and the game of cricket. 

Love Hostel has an appetite and eye for a bloody spectacle 

Cast: Bobby Deol, Vikrant Massey, Sanya Malhotra, Raj Arjun

Direction: Shanker Raman

Rating: ★★★

Streaming on Zee5

Jyoti Dilawar (Sanya Malhotra) is of age and in love with Ashu (Vikrant Massey). They’d like to wed, but the Dilawar family won’t have it because Ashu is actually Ahmed Shaukeen and we are in Haryana, circa 2021. So the lovers approach a court to get married and seek protection from being murdered.

The judge puts them in a government-run safe house while ordering the police to ensure their safety. 

They reach the safe house, are assigned a bunker in a grimy dormitory and are just about settling down when elsewhere Viraj Singh Dagar (Bobby Deol), tasked by the Dilawar parivar to settle the matter, sets off for the hunt.

Director Shanker Raman, who has written the script of Love Hostel with Mehak Jamal and Yogi Singha, made a stunning debut with Gurgaon (2016), a Haryanvi noir that examined honour killings in a city that is burgeoning and simultaneously hardening.  

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It was an autopsy of a city that has made many people very rich, but also a city where every new concrete structure with a glass façade and air-conditioned lifts rudely shuts its doors on the men and women to whom this city once belonged. In this capricious world where these men and women find little honor, they seek it desperately at home, in the choices their daughters and sisters make.  

Love Hostel revisits that theme but with an appetite and an eye for a bloody spectacle. 

Set in the dusty world of slimy cops, menacing Thars and speeding Scorpios, where Chaudhury saabs and Chaudhrains are proud and quick to take offence, Love Hostel takes swipes at many things – meat shops run by Muslims, “love jihad” and the usual neta-daroga nexus – as it tells the story of families, honor, love and murders.

This is a world where rage rules. It’s a place where hearts are as hard as rock, blood relations are no guarantee of safety. Here, violence is not a threat. It’s a way of life. 

The dialogue in Love Hostel is fast and furious, and its plotting is fabulous. There is a lot of violence in the film and all of it is sudden and stunning. The assassinations, with silencer guns, are not savage. They are cool and artistic. Because in Love Hostel, honor-killing is just a plot device and Haryana is simply a Wild West setting for Viraj Singh Dagar to strut his stuff and fire away.

Love Hostel, in fact, is not really interested in telling a story. It’s not concerned about what happens to Ashu and Jyoti. Like all others in the film, they are just stock characters required in any honor-killing saga. 

Gurgaon made my bones freeze. But Love Hostel’s wicked thrills made me smile because the film haswriter-director Shanker Raman flexing his creative muscles to show us what he is capable of pulling off with just one assassin played by Bobby Deol.

Vikram Massey is always good and long after the film is over, his character stays with you. Sanya Malhotra, through her roles and personality, has come to acquire a certain predictable chichorapan. We expect things to go a bit awry when she is around. But there is also a sameness to her that’s now begun to cast a pall of gloom over proceedings. 

Bobby Deol, on the other hand, has begun to enliven spaces he inhabits, whether in OTT series or movies. With his handsome face, creased with lines and experience, eyes like pools of smiling wisdom, he has really come of age as an actor after hitting middle age. 

As an assassin on the prowl who talks very little, wears spectacles to read but always leaves behind puddles of blood and stiff bodies, he is the film’s gory and glorious piece de resistance. Watch it. 

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