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.

Movie Review – Whip It (2009)

Year of Release: 2009

Stars:  Ellen PageDrew Barrymore and Kristen Wiig

Verdict: 3/5

 

Be your own hero! What an apt tag-line for the movie.

This movie is based on a book by the same name and marks the directorial debut of Drew Barrymore. And unexpectedly she has done a pretty good job of it.

It is a story of a small town average girl Bliss (Ellen Page) with a pretty boring life. She works as a part-time waitress along with her best friend Pash. Both of them feel stuck up in the in the small town and want to break free, experience the big city life and do exciting things. But there obviously are hurdles in their fairy tale.

Bliss is enduring the weight of her mothers’ dreams & aspirations. Her mother wants her to participate in and win beauty pageants and participate in society galas just as she did when she was younger. She thinks that that is a perfect path for her girls to follow. While Bliss’s younger sister is happy living the dream, Bliss is different. She wants more out of live than winning boring beauty pageants where one is at their impeccable best. She goes along with the drudgery until one day she stumbles upon something very exciting.

She gets to know about a Roller Derby league in the nearby city, Austin. She’s fascinated and decides to try it out. As it turns out she is excellent in it and for the first time in her life finds something she is truly passionate about.

Now the real trouble begins. She lies about her age, the reasons for her absence from home twice a week etc. etc.

In between all the lying, she falls for a guy for the first time in her life, enjoys and lives her life to the fullest, gets to live her passion, rise to the top of the game and basically be happy.

Trouble brews when her team reaches the finals for the 1st time. The tournament and her mother’s dream beauty pageant are on the same day. It’s a roller coaster ride thereafter. With the cat out of the bag, she struggles with the explanations and expectations of her parents and her team mates.

Ellen Page as always is brilliant and carries the movie on her tender shoulders. We could’ve done away with Drew Barrymore’s character though. All the other actors have also played their part well, especially Bliss’s best friend Pasha.

It isn’t a classic like other sports dramas like Coach Carter, The Fighter etc. but none the less a feel good motivating movie.

Trivia:

  • IMDB Rating – 7/10
  • Ellen Page dropped out of Drag Me to Hell to be in this film.
  • “Whip It” was written by Shauna Cross, a former Roller Derby skater with the Los Angeles Derby Dolls. Cross skated under the name Maggie Mayhem with a team of rouge cops called the Sirens. Many of the teams, skaters, names and plot lines were inspired by Cross’ time with the Derby Dolls.
  • The fictional TXRD team ‘Hurl Scouts’ were based on the ‘Tough Cookies’ from Los Angeles: both teams share a green uniform and theme based on the Girl Scouts of America.
  • Despite acting in feature films since the age of 5, this film is Drew Barrymore‘s feature film directorial debut.
  • The track used in the movie was built and lent to be used in the movie by a banked track roller derby league from Oklahoma City called Red Dirt Rebellion Rollergirls.
  • At one point in the film, Bliss Cavendar lies about her age being 22 (instead of 17), which is the actual age of Ellen Page, who plays her.
  • Filmed in Detroit, Michigan and many of the skaters in the movie are on Detroit’s Derby team.
  • When Bliss is getting ready for her first big match, Maggie Mayhem tells her that you can never have enough Lash Blast. Lash Blast mascara is a Cover Girl product. Drew Barrymore is a Cover Girl spokesperson.
  • When Iron Maven / Juliette Lewis tells Bliss Ellen Page that she’s 36 years old, that’s Juliette Lewis’ actual age at the time the movie was released.
  • Of the teams featured, only the Holy Rollers are an actual TXRD team.

Movie Review – Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (2011)

ZNMD is what happens when Hangover meets The Bucket List meets Dil Chahta Hai. But doesn’t turn out as excellent as either of the three.

But that does not mean it is any less enjoyable than the other three.

The title of the movie is a giveaway of what the storyline would be like. It is about the ‘bromance’ between 3 guys who set out on a trip to Spain to do the things they always wanted to do and to basically live their life.

Abhay Deol (Kabir) is running away from an accidental proposal, Hrithik Roshan (Arjun) is running away from a heart-break & Farhan Akhtar (Imraan) is running away from his mother in search of his lost father. Kabir convinces his 2 friends to accompany him on a road trip in Spain for his Bachelors. A hangover anyone?!

We meet two extremes in the cases of Arjun & Imraan, one being extremely focused, serious and career oriented and the other absolutely non-serious & callous about life in general. The gap between the two is bridged by the average Kabir.

The movie happens due to a pact made by the trio in college to go to a place and indulge in 3 adventure sports of each one’s choice and the other two would have to comply. As they set out on the trip we realize the awkwardness between the three since they meet after quite a long time but our ‘bwaaays’ slowly get into the groove of road trippin’ with silly pranks interspersed along the way.

When they reach for the 1st adventure sport (Deep Sea Diving), they meet Katrina (Laila) who is a fashion student in London but takes holidays to teach deep sea diving to people. Predictably the 2 bachelors, Arjun & Imraan fall for her with Imraan taking a more humorous route to impress her. But the leading lady falls for Bollywod’s very own Greek God and another female is brought in for our dear bwaaay Imraan.

Laila is a fun-loving, live-in-the-moment kinda girl and her bindaas attitude rubs off on the guys, especially Arjun. She teaches them to seize the day and live life to its fullest since tomorrow might be too late to do so.

The 2nd adventure challenge is to skydive. Imraan’s expressions and body language before sky-diving actually capture the emotions one would feel before taking the plunge. But this portion of the movie has been dealt with rather poorly. For the training part, the trainer along with our actors, is trying too hard to be comical which doesn’t feel natural. Also one can easily make out the fact that they aren’t actually skydiving. And the scene is stretched a bit too much.

Everything’s hunky dory in the first half but things take a little serious turn post interval with Imraan trying to find his real father which is rather tedious. But the way the whole situation is handled in the movie is quite different as opposed to other potboilers. You would expect an emotional drama to ensue after the father-son duo meet. But Naseeruddin Shah who plays Imraan’s real father is quite unapologetic about his decision to live life on his own terms. The movie has shown that parents too have their own needs and desires and every parent doesn’t give up everything for the child.

The 3rd and the last adventure sport is Bull-Riding which is shown in a very non-serious manner. It is a very dangerous sport but it is handled very lightly. But it drives home the message that to live life fully, you need to overcome your fears, the biggest one being the fear of death.

The dialogues of the movie are written by Farhaan Akhtar and have a very normal, day-to-day feel to them. The songs suit the feel of the movie though a few songs like senorita appear out of nowhere (the editing could’ve been better). And the poems that Imraan recites in between are nothing short of brilliance. Javed Akhtar truly has created magic with words.

And whatever happened to that ‘steamy kiss’ between the lead pair. The kiss was anything but steamy. It was sincere yes, but calling it steamy was totally a promotion gimmick.

But however the movie, however the dialogues and however the songs; the thing that truly and exceptionally stands out during the whole 3 hours, is the beauty of Spain. Every single person who saw the movie was totally sold on how beautiful Spain actually is. If I had to plan a holiday right now I would undoubtedly choose the exotic country.

ZNMD is a decent summer flick which can be watched on a nice free afternoon.

Trivia:

  • IMDB Rating – 8.3/10
  • Zoya Akhtar wanted to cast ‘Imran Khan’ and Ranbir Kapoor in the lead role but both declined in favor of acting together in their home production.
  • Katrina Kaif‘s introduction scene on the beach was shot on a nude beach. The production crew had to continually request people to move out of the frame.
  • The La Tomatina festival shown in the movie was re-created in Bunol, Valencia, Spain with almost 16 tons of tomatoes specially flown in from Portugal.
  • Zoya Akhtar wanted to shoot the film Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara in Mexico and explore that country as she had never been there, but after the final script, she found Spain to be a better location since the European aesthetics in Spain worked better for a road movie.
  • The actors shot for the entire week with only one day off. That day, Zoya Akhtar and her production team would plan for the next week’s shoot while the actors would sleep the day owing to the laid back attitude the local people would have on a holiday.
  • Zoya Akhtar had an adventurous time and whenever she would have the time, she would dive into the emerald waters and go snorkelling.
  • Katrina Kaif plays a diving instructor in the film and she had to take diving lessons. She took a short diving course on the wild coast of Costa Brava and took to the waters pretty well.
  • The boys would cycle to the sets in Barcelona while shooting for the film and they loved it, because they can’t do it in Mumbai.
  • Abhay Deol had learnt Spanish for his character in the film Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara and naturally ended up acting as a translator. Whenever the team would go out, Abhay used to help people out with the translation and he became a hit with the ladies.
  • Some of the wine-induced merriment stemmed from the World Cup excitement. Spain won, and the football crazy country gave over into uninhibited and high-spirited celebrations. The film crew of Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara was lucky to be a part of this celebration. In fact Ritesh Sidhwani, the producer, threw a party on the beach of Valencia to celebrate Spain winning the world cup. The cast and crew tore down the screens, played volleyball, danced and partied till wee hours.

Movie Review – The Wrestler (2008)

Love. Pain. Glory. – The tag line of the movie beautifully captures the whole mood of the movie.

The movie takes us through the journey of a fading professional wrestler well past his prime. It won an Oscar not for no reason. Though the movie starts a bit slow but builds your interest superbly along the way.

The story is about a professional wrestler, Randy ‘The Ram’, who was a wrestling hero in his prime but now is struggling in all the major areas of his life – money, health and relationships. He does small-time wrestling to just keep himself floating and also works part-time at the local grocery store. He plans on making a comeback with a high profile recap match with one of his hay-day rivals.

But just then his plans for comeback go down the drain given his health. This is where you can totally sympathize and empathize with ‘The Ram’ and his loneliness. He tries but fails in reviving his relationship with his daughter as well as the stripper he has feelings for.

The movie beautifully shows that though the sport of wrestling is fixed so to speak, but is as taxing as any other sport with the wrestlers working as hard as they would in any other sport.

The movie shows that when you love something from all your heart, it’s difficult to let go, even if that means putting your own self at risk.

All the actors have done a good job and have completely got into the skin of the character. The background score totally fits with the movie’s mood. All in all it’s a good movie though I wouldn’t call it spectacular.

Oh and did I mention the breath-taking scene at the end.

Trivia:

  • IMDB Rating – 8.2/10
  • Metascore – 81/100
  • The film was shot in 40 days.
  • Reportedly, both Bruce Springsteen and Mickey Rourke were paid no money for their contributions towards the film.
  • Only two days after its completion “The Wrestler” was screened on Venice Film Festival and walked off with the Golden Lion award for Best Picture. Mickey Rourke also would have walked off as Best Actor if the Venice jury chairman, director Wim Wenders, had had his way but Wenders’ vigorous campaigning could not topple a longstanding festival rule which insists that one film is not allowed to win both awards. Rourke happily contented himself with finally being the star of a prize-winning picture.
  • Due to the film’s modest budget, W. Axl Rose donated the use of Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child O’ Mine” free of charge for the final match.
  • Throughout most of the movie, “Metal Health (Bang Your Head)” by Quiet Riot is The Ram’s theme intro.
  • Star Mickey Rourke received his first Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for this film.
  • The film reportedly moved wrestler/actor Roddy Piper so much; he broke down and cried after a screening.