Leander Paes opens up about his passion for acting

1996 Olympics tennis bronze medallist Leander Paes has starred in a Bollywood movie, Rajdhani Express, in 2013.

By Utathya Nag

For decades, Leander Paes has been one of India's biggest heroes on the sporting stage.

But the Indian tennis ace also holds a special place in his heart for a stage of a very different kind.

“I love theatre and always wanted to be a theatre actor. I always wanted to go to Broadway and act. I wanted to perform live,” Leander Paes told long-time friend Raj Nayak in a Facebook Live session.

While his acting dreams took a backseat due to a busy tennis career, the Atlanta 1996 Olympics bronze medallist, in a way, lived his passion making his acting debut in Rajdhani Express – a Bollywood film directed by Ashok Kohli.

“Acting in a movie was on my bucket list. We Indians, love Bollywood. I had several offers since the ‘90s, including playing myself in a biopic.

“But the script of Rajdhani Express was phenomenal and had some amazing actors. I really enjoyed it and had a blast,” Paes revealed.

Rajdhani Express, an action-thriller starring Leander and Jimmy Sheirgill, released in 2013 and the tennis ace played one of the central characters in the film.

Tennis remains in post-retirement plans

At the twilight of an illustrious career, the 18-time Grand Slam champion had announced that the 2020 season will be his last.

However, with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic disrupting the tennis calendar and deferring the Tokyo Olympics to next year, the Indian is yet to take a final call on his future.

Seven-time Olympian Leander Paes has enjoyed a career spanning three decades

One can only speculate if a return to acting is an option for Leander Paes post tennis, but the 47-year-old is confident of one thing – he wants to give back to sports.

“At this stage, I am sitting back and concentrating on all the aspects of my post tennis career, all the other magical things that I want to do. As I navigate from tennis to post tennis, sports education is something I am keen on.

“I love kids and I feel that 75-80 per cent of all our talent is in the rural areas. I feel that to create opportunities for these kids through sports is something that really excites me,” Paes said.

Love for golf

Leander Paes also went on to reveal that he has also developed a keen interest in golf.

“I love playing golf. I love the creativity and the way you go around the course. Love the different courses around the world.

“It takes a lot of mental fortitude along with physical and technical abilities to score points in golf as well as in tennis. 

“There was a time I used to play golf every single day. My father (Olympic hockey medallist Vece Paes) keeps teasing and pushing to try my hand in the senior golf circuit,” Leander Paes said.