A familiar name in Hyderabad, Vishal Punna was an emerging tennis player back in 2000. He represented India along with Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi at the Davis Cup, won many under-14 and under-16 tournaments and titles. He played the game until 2006 when he had to drop out because of financial distress.
Born and brought up in Hyderabad, Vishal was interested in tennis from a very young age. “It’s a very expensive game and you need to put in a lot of money. My parents did whatever they could and they supported me for some time. But at one point, I had to go to Europe to participate in a tournament, which I couldn’t afford, so I decided to quit,” he says. The 33-year-old did try to make a comeback three years later in 2009, but things did not materialise.
Interestingly, Vishal even tried teaching the sport to young enthusiasts in the city. “It’s not that easy as there are politics behind it. My brother and I had even started an academy and coached many kids, but it is now shut down since we couldn’t renew the lease contract.”
About the next stage in his life, he says, “After I quit, I left for the US and started coaching there. At that time, I got an opportunity to work with an IT company, so I settled there,” Vishal says.
And today, in an interesting turn of events, the former tennis player is experimenting with a new field — Cinema! Vishal will be making his debut in Telugu cinema with Sarovaram, which is ready for release. But how did he enter tinseltown? As a child, Vishal was fond of watching Telugu films and the stories always remained with him. “Couple of years ago, the team of Subramanyam For Sale visited USA for shooting. They hired some locals for a few scenes and I was one of them. I appear in the beginning of the opening action scene,” says Vishal, who became quite serious about acting since then. “At that time I decided to pursue a career in acting and even started to take acting classes and started modelling,” he says.
Director Suresh saw his portfolio and contacted him for Sarovaram. “We spoke on Skype and he narrated the story to me and I liked it. Initially, I was not interested as I felt that I was taking a big risk by leaving my job and entering a different world. But my friends and the director insisted that I take up this opportunity — it comes very rarely. So, I decided to join the film,” explains Vishal.
“Now, I’ve quit my job and have come back to Hyderabad as I want to work seriously on my film career,” he adds. When asked about the competition in the industry, he says, “When I played tennis, I had bigger competition than this, so I want to fight it out.