'How will India remember Leander and Mahesh?" is the pertinent question asked of the numerous people interviewed for Zee5’s latest sports docu-series Break Point. While some call them legends and trendsetters in the field of tennis, others remember them for their troubled history. Tennis champion Rohan Bopanna sums it best, “It depends on which generation you belong to.”
The late 1990s were a glorious period for tennis in India. An elitist game forever sidelined by cricket, it finally enjoyed its moment in the sun when Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, or the ‘Indian Express’ as they were fondly called, became household names upon winning three Grand Slam titles together and garnering the World No. 1 ranking. Yet, all good things must come to an end and so did the Lee-Hesh combination. Through seven detailed episodes, this docu-series breaks down their journey from being an unbeatable team to having irreparable spats that eventually led to a break-up.
In the show, Paes and Bhupathi, along with their coaches, fellow players, family and friends offer blow-by-blow accounts of events that took place 20-25 years ago. Paes’ version shows him as the shining star and leader who was never thanked for providing opportunities and hefty endorsement deals to a rookie player. However, Bhupathi’s version shows Paes as a jealous, mistrustful person, who did not demur from shaming his partner’s fitness levels publicly. Tensions reached break point when Paes accused Bhupathi of chasing his girlfriend at the time—an accusation the latter took grave offence to.
Much like teenagers high on adrenaline, the two had tremendous ego clashes, and talk about them openly. Paes says, “I thought us two Indian boys together would make the perfect story… but I didn’t like his chalupanti.” Bhupathi highlights Paes’ jealousy by saying, “If he didn’t want to play with me, he should’ve just told me to my face like a man.”
Paes comes off as the more headstrong and arrogant of the two, and Bhupathi as the sensitive and diffident one struggling to find his identity under Paes’ shadow. However, despite their off-court differences, the duo makes a great team on court.
Break Point is a tad long and the editing leaves something to be desired when compared to international documentaries. However, audience stay hooked to the series. One does not need to be a fan of tennis to enjoy this show—the jargon is simplified and the humane aspects of the players are highlighted. Overall, a gripping and thoroughly enjoyable series.
Director: Ashwiny Iyer
Tiwari, Nitesh Tiwari
Genre: Sports Docu-series