March 30, 2020
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Leander Paes

First things first. Line up all our film critics and shoot ’em dead...

Leander Paes

First things first. Line up all our film critics and shoot ’em dead. Or maybe get them run over by the Rajdhani Express. These idiots are worse than our tennis reporters, yeah, the same who went ga-ga even after I won a Davis Cup singles match against a Papua New Guinea player world ranked 831. Of course, I did my usual antics on the court, perhaps that’s what impressed the makers of Rajdhani Express. Personally, I didn’t think it was a big deal. A super tennis star like me, I should have starred in something like ‘Dreamliner 787’.

But I liked the script, which showed me as a scruffy, mysterious, down-on-the-luck guy with a bag. This was me. For years on the international circuit, as the Beckers, Lendls, Federers and Nadals conquered and departed, I carried on in singles, the perennial first-round exit man in tournaments around the world. Then I discovered doubles, where I could hang on to someone else’s shorts or, as it happened, skirts. Luckily, the top guys had stopped playing doubles by then, which left the field clear for scruffy, down-on-the-luck guys like me. For my ‘Indian fans’, there were also the occasional singles wins over players with  unpronounceable names from Vietnam, Madagascar or Rwanda-Burundi. And as usual, our media went bonkers, honours came thick and fast and so did Page 3 fame.

That will now continue with my film career. Some of my tennis friends have promised help. Maria Navratilova will play my long-lost elder sister in an Indo-Czech co-production where I play a poet who rediscovers his lost muse playing tennis at Roland Garros in Paris. And there is a juicy role as a Scotland Yard detective who solves a sensational case of strawberries-and-cream poisonings at Wimbledon. But there is no truth in the gossip item that Maria Sharapova  turned down a chance as the female lead, asking ‘Leander who’? Why, the cheek of it. If Saif Ali Khan can play a desi Agent Vinod, why can’t I do the role of a Scotland Yard detective?

Critics commented on my ‘maniacal laugh’ in Rajdhani Express. How else should I laugh after dealing for years with Indian tennis officials who did not know the difference between ‘deuce’ and ‘double fault’? As for the scowling, growling and grunting, it’s my usp, the legacy of long hours on the court. Now I think mine was a classy film, much in the mould of the Le Carre vehicle, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. In Rajdhani Express, we have the same scenario—Hooker, Tailor, Communist and Maniacal Laugh Man. For all those busybodies who ripped my film, well, this is an era of ‘train’ movies. Shahrukh’s Chennai Express is on its way. I will be going international with a remake of Murder on the Orient Express. But don’t worry, I get murdered in the second reel itself.

The Mumbai-based satirist is the creator of ‘Trishanku’; E-mail your secret diarist: vgangadhar70 AT

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