Indian tennis legends Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes could not see eye to eye for years after their famous and public fall out. Now, with ZEE5’s latest offering BreakPoint, the duo is back together and loves it.
Directed by Ashwini Iyer Tiwari and Nitesh Tiwari, BreakPoint is a docu-series that looks at the successful careers of Bhupathi and Paes and explores their partnership in the space that expanded beyond the court. In this interview, Paes and Bhupathi discuss how it was working on a project, years after their fall out; and more.
Asked how difficult the decision to get back together for the project was, Mahesh Bhupathi says, “We have been approached multiple of times but it was like …either of us disliked one aspect or the other (in the proposed projects). Hence, we never took it up. This time, we got excited when we heard that Nitesh Tiwari and Ashwini Iyer want to do this because their style of storytelling is different. We got into a Zoom call and quickly got an immense amount of comfort from their end. They gave us the freedom to tell our stories independently and they are crazy tennis fans as well. We just got along really well and decided to do it.”
Leander Paes adds, “We have fended off opportunities to do a feature film for 20 years. We were happy everybody – Ashwini Iyer, Nitesh Tiwari, and even ZEE5 – everybody was on the same page that this had to be a docu series. Showing 20 years of history in 90/120 minutes is not possible. In the docu-series, you get to see the human emotions, the ups and downs of how champions are made in India. It took a lot of courage for both of us. And to add to it, there were no actors. But both of us enjoyed the process.”
He says, “It was courageous of us to tell all the truth but that’s where we had the confidence from Ashwini Iyer and Nitesh Tiwari, that the story will be told in a real, true and classy manner. There is no candy floss sugar-coating, it is pure hard truth.”
Revisiting their childhood, the players also talked about the role of their families and parents in their success. Admitting that it was because of their families that they could achieve all that they have, Paes says, “This series is also about how two families come together to build champions. We were in a sport where there was no rule book. There was no set of rules to winning a Wimbledon Cup.”
Bhupathi adds, “Did I enjoy the process (of parents pushing him to work harder on his game)? Absolutely not, but do I regret it today? Absolutely not, right? I am glad my father pushed me.” BreakPoint is streaming on ZEE5.
Asked about tackling bullying and racism during their initial international matches, Bhupathi says, “Not racism, there is avery thin line there. But, yes, nobody could believe that two Indian boys could excel at this level. A lot of snide comments were passed as we went along. But I think a lot of that was also gamesmanship, you know, trying to throw you off in the battle. We did face all that, but there was nothing too hardcore.”
(The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.)