London: Doubles specialist Leander Paes will juggle his tennis career with Bollywood over the next few months as he attempts to complete a career grand slam and forge a new life as a movie star.
Paes, who is playing with Czech Lukas Dlouhy at the ATP World Tour Finals, will team up again with long-time partner Mahesh Bhupathi at next year’s Australian Open which is the men’s doubles major to elude him.
However, at 37, Paes is already preparing for life after tennis on the silver screen and will star in the forthcoming movie Rajdhani Express.
“It’s true, I started shooting my first movie already. It’s something exciting. It’s something new,” Paes, who has 12 grand slam titles in men’s and mixed doubles, said at London’s O2 Arena.
“I’m 37 years old. I can’t keep playing tennis for the rest of my life. In India, I’m very lucky. I have a big following. I have a lot of people that enjoy what I do.”
Paes has earned $6 million from his life as a globe-trotting sportsman and national acclaim back home and he believes tennis and acting have many similarities.
“Movies for me was a natural progression, to go from tennis to movies to entertain my fans,” he said. “As you can see, on the court, I have fun, I’m very passionate about what I do.”
While Paes admits he enjoys singing and dancing, he says his first step into showbiz will not be strictly Bollywood.
“With the movies I’m just learning, I’m an apprentice,” he said. “Right now I’m doing a serious drama movie, there’s not one song where I have to dance in it. Thank God.
“I enjoy dancing, it’s fun, but first I want them to take me as a serious actor.”
Paes has “co-starred” successfully with Dlouhy, who he describes as “like a brother”, but has opted to start next year with fellow Indian Bhupathi even though he said it might not be a long-term reunion.
“To start off, the only grand slam that Mahesh and myself have not won is the Australian Open,” he said.
“Back in India, Mahesh and myself have a huge following for many years. We are followed around the world. But I don’t know whether that’s going to be a long-term partnership through the year or not. It was a last-minute decision.”
“Last year Lukas and I won two grand slams (French Open and U.S. Open). But in the last five or six months, somewhere after the French Open, we’ve lost our mojo. We’ve lost something.”
They will hope to regain it on Tuesday when they take on Jurgen Melzer and Philipp Petzschner in a match they must win after losing their opening round robin match match against Poles Mariusz Fyrstenberg and Marcin Matkowski.