We know that tennis players Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi were men’s doubles champions, but how much do we know about why they drifted apart in the 2000s? The Zee5 docuseries Break Point promises to shed light on this rise-and-rift story.

The seven-episode series, which is out on October 1, marks on the streaming debut of Nitesh Tiwari and Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari. Apart from interviews with Paes and Bhupathi, the show features Sania Mirza and men’s doubles teams such as Bob Bryan-Mike Bryan and Todd Woodbridge-Mark Woodforde.

There’s another partnership at work here. Nitesh Tiwari and Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari are among the Hindi film industry’s most prolific married couples. Tiwari has written all of Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari’s films, starting with Nil Battey Sannata. The couple also work on commercials together and produce each other’s films. Their relationship stems from “mutual respect” and their ability to anticipate each other’s needs, they told Scroll.in.

Why did you choose to tell this story as a documentary?
Nitesh Tiwari:
The substance of the story dictates the style. Dangal, based on wrestler Mahavir Phogat’s life, was a linear, uncomplicated story, whose plot points led to a grand, cinematic climax. There was no ups and downs in the emotional graph, unlike Break Point.

It was best to tell it in an episodic format, instead of a two-hour film, as there’s so much ground to cover. We wouldn’t be able to do justice to the story with actors. Everyone saw them lift the cup at Wimbledon and Roland Garros [French Open, 1999], but nobody knows what happened between sets.

Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari: With fiction, the storyline is in your control. Here, we might have begun with one framework, but the untold stories that emerged during the shoot compelled us to rewrite the script and find new ways to develop the narrative.

Was it challenging to make Paes and Bhupathi open up?
Nitesh Tiwari: Fiction or non-fiction, the challenge is to win the trust of the participant. Here, the subject, their friends, family, and other legends have to trust you to part with their side of the story. I think we managed to do that with everyone.

Break Point (2021).

Nitesh, ‘Dangal’ followed wrestling, and both ‘Chillar Party’ and ‘Chhichhore’ had sports in their stories. Ashwiny, ‘Panga’ was about kabaddi. What is your relationship with sports?
Nitesh Tiwari: Growing up in many parts of the country, I had a rich childhood. I played a lot of cricket. Then when television arrived, and we saw Diego Maradona lifting the [soccer] World Cup, and Boris Becker bringing a whole new excitement to tennis. Even today, at home, when I have nothing to do, I will watch a live match instead of a film.

Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari: I was a very good runner in school and participated in long jump. Later, I got into trekking. I love Olympics kind of sports, tennis and badminton. After I had kids, I tried learning tennis. The coach said, you’re too old, but I don’t think they would say anything like that now. I love how Roger Federer plays.

Nitesh Tiwari: And how he looks. She had insisted that I take her to watch a Federer match at Centre Court [Wimbledon] before he retires. We finally did that in 2018.

Dangal (2016).

What is it like being married and professional colleagues?
Nitesh Tiwari:
It is comforting that she understands what I am working on and vice versa. If she needs to travel and be away from home for a month, I understand, and I expect the same from her. There’s no need to explain why I need to be like this.

For example, I am at home now, she is in the office. I won’t call and ask, how long will you take, because I know what she is busy with.

Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari: There have been days when we have been in the same house but not spoken the whole day because of work. When I was writing my book Mapping Love, I wouldn’t see or speak to him the entire day in the house itself. He knows I need my space.

What is your working relationship like?
Nitesh Tiwari: A lot of mutual respect. When I write for her films, I give her the respect she needs as a director, and she respects me as the writer. I know certain things are out of my jurisdiction. The director in me doesn’t interfere with her. We know where to draw the line.

Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari: It is important to respect each other’s strengths and give space to each other to grow. There should be enough respect to honestly discuss work but also not over-interfere.

What are each other’s strengths?
Nitesh Tiwari: Ashwiny is a far more risk-taking, gutsy filmmaker. She has usually surprised me with her choices. I am happy to have been proven wrong on many occasions. I would not have taken those calls.

Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari: One thing I like about Nitesh is that besides being a good screenplay writer, he has tremendous meticulousness and discipline towards understanding technical aspects like VFX. He really tries to understand how things function. I have learned a lot from how he sees the objective of each scene, why something is written in a particular way.

Nil Battey Sannata (2015).

How do you give each other feedback?
Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari: On a monthly basis, we make a lot of ad films. Sometimes he makes, I produce them, or vice-versa. We always show each other our first cuts. I give constructive feedback, but not detailed. Like, I will say, I don’t understand a scene, or a shot is too long. My strength lies in costumes, art direction, colours, so I may suggest something on those lines. But I leave my suggestion there, without following up.

Nitesh Tiwari: A lot of people don’t take constructive criticism positively. It is a comforting feeling when you know your feedback won’t be taken in a negative context, so I can open my heart out, because she knows I’m talking for the betterment of the product.

Your favourite moments from each other’s films?
Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari: Dangal above all, especially the scene where Mahavir wrestles his daughter. Chillar Party. I loved the casting of the kids, especially Jhangiya [Naman Jain]. I also loved a McDonalds ad he directed.

Nitesh Tiwari: The climactic conversation Chanda [Swara Bhasker] has with her daughter about fear in Nil Battey Sannata. And the father-daughter conversation in Bareilly Ki Barfi, where Kriti Sanon asks if it would have been better if she was born male.