Show: Break Point
Cast: Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi, Sania Mirza, Amitabh Bachchan, Todd Woodbridge, Mark Woodforde
Director: Nitesh Tiwari, Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari
Rating: 3 Moons
Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes were the trailblazers when it came to Lawn Tennis in India. The duo’s on court triumphs were a match to all the cricket fever and few sporting spectacles could match the fever-dream intensity of the champs teaming up to play Davis Cup for India. Break Point takes a look at these two legendary sportsmen who were equally great as well as equally flawed in equal measure. They won some major Grand Slam titles together bringing laurels to India that was never seen before and making Tennis a popular sport in the country. However, their controversial breakup riled up the country and sent a wave of dismay to the hearts of their fans. Break Point brings their rift to light, 20 years after the events unfolded.
Before Lee-Hesh, as the players are popularly called, we had legends like Vijay Amritraj and Ramanathan Krishnan as Indian tennis players but the sport got a new high when these two stepped on the court. When the go-getter from Kolkata and an unassuming but determined player from Bengaluru teamed up everything else as they say became history. However, their onscreen triumphs were marred by their turbulent relationship off-court and that is what Break Point is all about. It is a carefully thought-out emotional tale that brings out the cumbersome relationship between the two legends and relates their problems and differences with each other through their own mouths and perceptions. The two are narrating their tale of love, longing, bonding, brotherhood, ego clashes, anger and misgivings and their inability to articulate what they really feel to each other and brings their highest and lowest lows without any filters.
Break Point introduces us to the two sporting legends on the day they met and they are positioned as star-crossed lovers who fall for each other’s goals and become a team that goes on to win the world. However, the dream as we know crumbles after some feats and that is what the husband-wife director duo Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari and Nitesh Tiwari focus in the seven-part docuseries. The documentary series does not rely on match footage to do the heavy lifting but get the duo to talk about what they went through at the time. Now, armed with the power of hindsight and maturity the players admit that external noise caused the biggest problems between them and had they been left alone they would not have fallen out as they still hold each other in high esteem. They address the bad air between them with candid attitude and also provide their own version of an unadulterated story.
Besides, Leander and Mahesh there are other real-life people telling their story, Sania Mirza and Amitabh Bachchan both make their appearance along with tennis players Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde. Leander and Mahesh present their raw emotions in the series with the former calling latter ‘his little brother’ while another friend revealed that Mahesh cried his guts out in a pub in the US for Leander and that talks volumes. The series is an in-depth study of psyche with Leander’s alpha male who is emotionally charged, teary-eyed and straight faced to Mahesh’s resolute and introverted self who bottles up everything till it bursts out. The only thing that is common to these two diverse individuals is their lack of communication. Leander comes out as the more calculative of the two with his statements giving a more rehearsed quality while Mahesh’s no-nonsense playing style reflects on camera as well.
The series gets a bit monotonous as there aren’t many objective viewpoints and the direction on the part of the Tiwaris is a bit lacking. Their overuse of fake news headlines and period-inaccurate footage puts a dampener on the series. Break Point also lacks light-hearted moments which after a while make it a tedious watch, some anecdotes would have definitely uplifted it more. The star players talk a lot about what was amiss in their relationship but could have delved a bit more on what they think about themselves as individuals.
The series could have focused on the pair’s volatile relationship with the All India Tennis Association and their record-setting run at the Davis Cup- but all this are almost out rightly ignored. Tennis is a lonely sport but if it would not have been for their love of the game Lee-Hesh would not have survived together for the years that they did. Their series does not culminate in a match point but is actually a deuce. These two deserved a more compelling series, nevertheless Break Point is a commendable watch.
PeepingMoon.com gives Break Point, 3 Moons.