Movie Review: PAAN SINGH TOMAR by FENIL SETA

Our obsession with cricket has resulted in extreme neglect of the other sports. There are sportsmen who hold world or national records and yet their feats don’t get featured even in the sports section of newspapers, forget front page coverage. Over the years, there have been reports of sportsmen who faced extreme hardships to get access to basic needs or what is rightfully theirs. Most of them suffered silently but Paan Singh Tomar couldn’t have lived that way. The seven-time national champion felt justified to pick up the gun when no help was available from any quarters. And this is what Tigmanshu Dhulia’s film traces and man, he succeeds and how! The film creates a tremendous impact that very few Hindi films have managed to do. A film one can’t afford to miss, at any cost!

The story of the movie: The story commences in the 1950s. Paan Singh Tomar (Irrfan Khan) is a soldier in the army who is enrolled in the athletics. He surprises one and all with his stamina and becomes a national champion seven times. He even goes overseas and represents India and also winning a gold medal in the 1967 International Defense Athletic Meet. Yet, few years down the line, he became the most dreaded dacoit of the Chambal Valley! To find out what led to him to become a daaku or rather a baaghi, go watch the film!

Just a few days back, I was left wondering that it has been ages that I doled out 5 stars to a Hindi film. Udaan was the last Bollywood flick that got a 5 rating from me after which there arrived countless number of films that were well-made and rich in content. But none were 5-stars deserving. Since Udaan arrived in July 2010, Paan Singh Tomar can be termed as the best Hindi film, for me, in 596 days! Ok, now enough of useless analysis. Let’s get back to the film!

Paan Singh Tomar begins on an interesting note and the film goes on an upward swing as the flashback commences. The entire first half is laced with lot of interesting and entertaining moments which would surely be loved by one and all – be it Paan Singh delivering ice-cream, training under Randhawa (Rajendra Gupta) or his rivalry with his cousin Bhanwar Singh (Khan Jahangir Khan). The intermission comes at an appropriate moment. One might have complaints with second half as the film get a little dry at places. But no complaints as director Tigmanshu Dhulia have tried his best in making this film as engrossing as possible. Also, this is a film inspired by true events and hence adding spice to the proceedings just doesn’t make sense! The climax is tragic and one can’t help but feel extremely bad for Paan. One exits the theatre with a heavy heart but also gets enlightened about such a fine sportsman that lived in our country who didn’t get the rightful respect that he fully deserved.

It’s an established fact that Irrfan Khan is one of the most versatile actors that we have today. One knew that he would rock as Paan Singh Tomar. And yet, he surprises as he exceeds the expectations of the viewer by delivering a brilliant performance. What also is worth applauding is that he underwent extreme physical training for the role. No harness was used in the scenes where he’s jumping the hurdle. The actor even injured his ankle during the shoot and yet managed to give a flawless performance! Moreover, he excelled in the emotional scenes as well, be it he talking to Bhanwar Singh during his final moments or visiting Randhawa’s house after ages…he was just too good! Hats off!

Mahie Gill (Paan’s wife Indra) does a great job but sadly doesn’t have much to do in the film. Rajendra Gupta is extremely likeable. Khan Jahangir Khan rocked in the negative role. Vipin Sharma (Major Masand) gives his best and so does Zakir Hussain (Inspector Rathore). Brijendra Kala was too good as a small-town journalist. Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Gopi) seemed neglected initially but has a major role in the last 20 minutes. Sitaram Panchal (Ramcharan) looked every inch a villager. Rajeev Gupta (corrupt cop) succeeds in his negative role. Others like Swapnil Kothriwal (Paan’s son Hanumanth Singh), Ravi Sah (Paan’s nephew Balram) etc too pitch in a fine performance.

Abhishek Ray’s music is relegated to the background as songs don’t much to do in the film. However, Sandeep Chowta’s background score was quite exciting. Aseem Mishra’s cinematography was quite raw and worked well for this film. Kaushal-Moses’ action was appropriate. Film has been shot in real-life locations which gives the movie an authentic touch.

Sanjay Chauhan and Tigmanshu Dhulia’s story and screenplay was extremely intriguing. The film spans over almost 31 years and the writers ensure that all important events of Paan are presented neatly without rushing or dragging at any point. Dialogues are one of the strengths of the film. It’s a treat to listen to the Bundelkhandi dialect! And finally, hats off to director Tigmanshu Dhulia for coming up with a film on Paan Singh Tomar who has been long forgotten today. The filmmaker succeeds in making the viewers sympathize with Paan Singh Tomar. One knows that he’s on the wrong side of the law and yet one can’t help but lend support to him throughout the film. In fact, the transformation of Paan Singh Tomar from athlete to dacoit was a slap on the face of our government and the entire system. Moreover, to further boil the blood of the viewers, Dhulia in the end credits mentions the names of all those champion sportsmen who got no help from government and who died penniless with one even having to sell his gold medal. So very unfortunate!

Some of the best scenes:
1. Paan Singh Tomar with the journo
2. Paan Singh Tomar delivers ice-cream
3. Paan Singh Tomar’s first victory
4. Paan Singh Tomar in Japan
5. Paan Singh Tomar during 1965 Indo-Pak war
6. Paan Singh Tomar wins at the International Defence Athletic Meet
7. The 20 minutes before interval (terrific!)
8. Paan Singh Tomar’s kidnaps birthday boy (funny!)
9. Paan Singh Tomar’s kidnapping in Rajasthan
10. Paan Singh Tomar fights Bhanwar Singh
11. The last 20 minutes

On the whole, Paan Singh Tomar is cinema at its best! It not only enlightens about a forgotten and unsung hero, it also throws light on the fact that our sportsmen deserve respect and attention which they sadly are not getting. We often crib that our Hindi cinema rarely comes up with good films. Now here’s a good, or rather an outstanding film. Go for it, in theatres, and help this film attain commercial success so that more producers come forward to back genuine efforts like Paan Singh Tomar! Grab your ticket now!

My rating-***** out of 5!

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2 Comments
  1. narad_muni 8 years ago

    WOW! 5 stars!
    Can’t wait to c the movie…. n its gonna rock the BO as well… universal praise for the movie from all quarters.

  2. Serenzy 7 years ago

    5/5 by Fenil to PST!

    \m/

    He Does Get it Right… Sometimes 😉

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