Paes set to serve filmi ace

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He is an icon in the sportsworld. Lawn tennis is synonymous with his name in India. With 13 grand slam titles, Leander Paes commands fame and following. And now at the age of 40, he makes his debut as an actor in Bollywood with Rajdhani Express. On his visit to the capital, we caught up with him.

“I am crossing my fingers and keenly awaiting next Saturday, when I will be able to gauge the reaction of the audiences and industry. I hope all goes well,” he smiles.
Talking about his foray into films, he informs, “Right after I won the Olympic medal in 1996, I was offered a film about a middle-class boy who dreams of playing for India and manages to do so after a long struggle. It was almost my story but at that point in time, I did not feel like taking up the offer.”
Almost 16 years after that, he feels he is in a comfortable position to experiment. In the movie, Rajdhani Express, he portrays the character of Keshav, who has a lot of angst within him, which makes him brash. When we ask him how was the experience of portraying the character, he says,
“Keshav is very unlike me. He has a lot of fury and repressed anger within him, that makes him a rough guy, who swears and shouts. But I liked the role. The film is a thriller drama and even has a satirical tone. It also has an underlying message, that power should always be given to the right people, who do not misuse it.”
Known for a strong command over English, did Leander face issues mouthing dialogues in Hindi? “Not really. I have been taking Urdu language training for sometime to work on my diction. Every actor faces some challenge in some area or the other, be it doing action sequences or dancing. Mine was getting the accent right. But I managed,” he says.
As he claims to be a major movie buff, we ask him about his favourite actors in Bollywood. “The first name that comes to my mind is Amitabh Bachchan. I have grown up watching movies like Sholay and Amar Akbar Anthony. I like Aamir for his creative thinking, Shah Rukh for his romantic charm, especially in his film DDLJ and yes of course, Salman for his Dabangg series. If I had to choose among female co-stars, I would love to work with Kareena Kapoor, Deepika and Anoushka Sharma,” says Leander.
Does he plan to get involved in other aspects of filmmaking? “Yes, why not. Production is definitely on the cards. However, for direction I need to get well acquainted with the acting arena,” he smiles.
He adds, “Next year I will start shooting for a film based on a graphic novel, which deals with an undercover spy. I am looking forward to that project as well.”

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