Series: Break Point
Directors: Ashwini Iyer and Nitesh Tiwari
Production Companies: ZEE5 Global, EarthSky Productions
Streaming on: ZEE5
Genre: Sports, Drama
Languages: English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu
ZEE5 Global and the award-winning husband-wife directorial doubles pairing of Nitesh Tiwari (of 'Dangal' fame) and Ashwini Iyer Tiwari ('Bareilly ki Barfi') have created a sports docu-series focussing on the journey of Indian tennis legends Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi, from “bromance to breakup”.
The PR campaign for ‘Break Point’ claims it will put to rest all speculation about the reasons behind the Lee-Hesh split and explore the stormy journey of the ‘Indian Express’.
While we will have to wait and see whether the seven-part series will prove to be enough to satisfy a ravenous fanbase’s curiosity, we do get a good look behind the curtain into the lives of two of India’s brightest icons.
The Tiwaris’ showcase the similarities as well as the differences between Leander and Mahesh in a compelling narrative consisting of clips of chats with the duo, their families, friends, doubles rivals like the Woodies and Bryan brothers, other doubles teammates, ranging from Sania Mirza to Martina Hingis and members of the media.
The series is superbly-crafted and edited, a feat that is even more impressive considering the restrictions the production team was facing while shooting during the height of the pandemic. Nitesh Tiwari’s flair for great narration of sports events, whether a match or a bout, is on full display; Lee-Hesh’s commentary and recap of their 1999 Wimbledon-winning season is a major highlight of the series.
Ashwini Iyer Tiwari has showcased her unique skills in capturing the heartbreak, drama and tragedy of a great romance, or in this case bromance, that we first saw in Bareilly ki Barfi. There are plenty of revelations, twists and misunderstandings over the course of Mahesh and Leander’s careers, both when they were playing together and separately.
The Tiwaris have seamlessly captured the mercurial Lee-Hesh saga that has been splashed across the media in real life, turning the ‘Great Indian tennis rift’ into a drama that is virtually Shakesperean.
Ironically, the real-life conflicts and controversies that provide such riveting source material also amplify the series’ major weakness, which is the drowning out of the bromance by the breakup.
While the Tiwaris do a great job keeping the camera and focus (quite literally) on Bhupathi and Paes’ story, sometimes it felt like I was watching a cross between an Indian soap opera and Bridgerton rather than a sports docuseries.
From the second episode itself, the focus of the series shifts from telling the story of their partnership to why and how it was cut tragically short and lamenting the unrealised achievements of the Indian Express. The deterioration of Paes and Bhupathi’s relationship casts a pall over the series, colouring the comments and reactions of everyone who is interviewed and leaving viewers either numbed to further negativity or lamenting the ever-widening rift between Leander and Mahesh.
Rohit Brijnath, Assistant Sports Editor with the Straits Times, who is quoted extensively in the documentary, sums up both the duo’s break and the sports docudrama’s narrative monotony perfectly.
“If I was a scriptwriter and rewrote their script, I would never believe that the script would go so wrong,” he says in episode 4, aptly titled, ‘Two Good, Two Bad’.
By the time we reach the final episode, the Break has become so large that the bromance is all but forgotten. The abrupt segue from an inside look into the 2006 Asian Games fiasco to the wrap-up asking all sources their opinion on how India will remember Lee-Hesh seems forced and disrupts the flow of the narrative.
Nevertheless, ‘Break Point’ is a worthy recommendation for this weekend’s binge-queue, and provides a fascinating insight into the world of Indian tennis and two of its greatest icons.