Movie Review – Paan Singh Tomar (2012)


Paan Singh Tomar

Year of Release: 2012

*ing: Irrfan Khan, Mahie Gill

Verdict: 4/5

“Beehad mein toh baagi baste hain, Dakait toh parliament mein hote hain”. This power packed line delivered by the performance powerhouse Irrfan Khan in the promos was enough to drive the audiences to the theater. And boy were they in for a joyride!

PST comes as a pleasant surprise; with it’s strong script, stronger dialogues, fabulous acting and wonderful direction; in midst of movies like Housefull being made which just bank on their star power and ridiculous item numbers to do well. While the recently released movies are cheap rehashed versions of hit Hollywood movies, PST is authentically desi. While the recent crop of movies are like caviar curry minus the spice, PST is authentic daal baati churma with tons of flavor.

It is an endearing story of an army man turned athlete turned dacoit. The legendary Chambal ghati forms the backdrop for the major part of the movie, an area that was once infamous for housing innumerable number of self-made dacoits & their gangs. The inability of food doled out at the army canteen to satiate Paan Singh’s hunger, leads to him joining sports so that he can eat as much as he wants. His innocuous innocence in all of this will totally get to you.

Thus begins the glorified story of how he becomes a name to reckon with in the Steeple chase race where he breaks his own records. But the turning point or a setback for his flourishing career comes when he learns of the family feud in which his land was illegally taken over by his cousin brother. Armed with his army background and sports credentials he sets out to achieve justice the right way. But when spurned and insulted by the system, he has no other choice but to turn into something he had been avoiding all along. There is only so much insult a male ego can suffer. Thereupon we get to witness the dacoit part of Paan Singh’s life which is as beautifully captured as his athletic days.

The movie definitely glorifies the life of a dacoit but also gets you thinking whether we can blame those who are forced to choose illegal or criminal paths by our very own system. A question everybody can agree is highly morally subjective.

Philosophy aside, the entire movie is a treat to watch. The director (Tigmanshu Dhulia) has taken care of the smallest details – the authentic dialect of the area, the non-dramatic and gradual aging process of Paan Singh, love-making scenes in rural India during olden times, Mahie Gill’s village belle avatar, Paan Singh’s attempts at getting privacy with his wife, his suppressed anger and frustration at being able to do nothing when outnumbered by his cousin’s men,  etc. The light-hearted moments peppered throughout the movie keep it from getting too serious or boring.

Though the local dialect adds an authentic touch, it might be a little difficult for people not familiar with it to understand. Also the second half of the movie sometimes drags in bits and pieces.

But apart from the above tiny glitches, the movie has proven yet again that the real hero is the story/script as it is the soul of the movie. This is the precise reason why this film has worked wonderfully without any hype or over the top promotions. And of course not to discount the brilliant performance by Irrfan Khan.

It’s about time that other filmmakers learn a lesson from Tigmanshu Dhulia and make films that have a story rather than churning out nonsense after nonsense starring the biggest stars. As can be learnt from numerous culinary contest shows; no matter how fancy a dish looks, it is only as good as it tastes.

Original interview of Paan Singh Tomar

Trivia:

  • Paan Singh Tomar won the steeplechase event at Indian National Games for seven years in a row. He gave up sports and became famous dacoit in Bhind in Madhya Pradesh.
  • The makers of Paan Singh Tomar used real money worth Rs 3 Lakhs and hung it on a hoarding in Juhu, Mumbai as a part of a promotion. The hoarding was guarded by security personnels but the bag of real money had to be removed when cops intervened due to security threats.
  • Paan Singh Tomar’s nephew, Balwanta Singh lodged an FIR against the director Tigmanshu Dhulia in Gwalior for an alleged breach of promise. Balwanta claims that Tigmanshu had promised to pay him Rs 40 lacs to help him find details about the transformation of Paan Singh from an athlete to a dacoit.
  • The film Paan Singh Tomar was shot in Chambal. Since the area is bandit infested, the cast and crew were not allowed to venture out of their hotel after 5pm and there was security round the clock.
  • The film Paan Singh Tomar required the lead actor Irrfan Khan to be physically fit. Hence Irrfan used to go for regular jogs in the evening and also indulge in playing cricket with the cast and crew.
  • Irrfan Khan was not the first choice to play the dacoit, the director had Akshay Kumar in mind earlier, but later approached Irrfan Khan who fit into the character very well.
  • Irrfan Khan was not aware of Paan Singh Tomar although he was a National Steeplechase Champion. Only after he was approached by the director Tigmanshu Dhulia and later reading about him, did Irrfan learn of him and found his character very intriguing.
  • Apparently the final schedule of the film was delayed because Irrfan suffered an injury to his leg. Also while shooting in the jungles of Dholpur, the sultry weather caused Irfan a blackout and he even got dehydrated.
  • To essay the character of Paan Singh Tomar, Irrfan Khan dedicated himself 2 month before the beginning of the shoot to learn and train on Steeplechase. He took training from a Delhi based National level coach who trained Irrfan in the sport. Irrfan also undertook lessons on voice modulation and pronunciation as he had to speak in the local dialect.
  • To make the film look authentic, director Tigmanshu Dhulia shot the film Paan Singh Tomar in his village and in the house where he grew up.
  • Tigmanshu Dhulia shot the film in terrains of Chambal, Forest Research Institute in Dehradun which was converted into a sports complex and Ludki with army men.
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5 thoughts on “Movie Review – Paan Singh Tomar (2012)

    1. Well more than inspiring, the movie was heartbreaking. It was sad to see how a cricket-crazy country mistreats athletes. Hopefully that situation should improve with people becoming more aware of other forms of sports.

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