The movie delivers the punch line at the end. dedicated to all the unsung sportsmen who died penniless. Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Paan Singh Tomar is one movie which Bollywood should be proud of. After Udaan this was one movie which shows us we still have good filmmakers in the country. (Sorry Karan Johar, I don’t consider you one). Tigmanshu delivers a film about a real life athlete from the heartland of Chambal who eventually becomes a dreaded dacoit. Paan Singh Tomar is what good cinema is. A perfect blend of drama, humour and tragedy. And Irrfan Khan is simply brilliant. Paan Singh Tomar is the journey of an Athlete (for both food and honor) who loses faith in the law enforcement and picks up the gun to seek revenge and protect the pride of his family.
Tigmanshu first encountered the tragic story of Tomar while in Chambal on the sets of Shekhar Kapur’s Bandit Queen(1994) (Another Dacoit film we loved), for which he was Casting Director. He finally managed to bring Tomar’s story to the screen this year after a long gap. The movie starts with a stuttering local journalist (Brijendra Kala) who is going to interview Paan Singh and then the film moves swiftly into flashback. Biopics are never easy but this one is “one shot on the dot”. The one doesn’t bore you with an art movie sorta feeling but its also not too commercial. Just a perfect blend of everything. Irrfan Khan is effortless and brilliant with the portrayal of Tomar. He is as rustic as required, as raw as desired and he is a viewers delite. Mahie Gill as Tomar’s wife delivers a subtle performance which could have been done by anyone else too.
Tigmanshu Dulia potrays the rustic feel of Madhya Pradesh so well that it sets the tone just right. And the dialogues written by Dhulia himself is another masterstroke. The dialect, the language, the delivery- everything is on the spot. The line – “Beehad mein baaghi hote hain, dakait parliament mein milte hain” says it all. Ok yes the movie is predictable and a bit slow and draggy in the second half but one should watch it because this movie is a rare treat for the way it has been told and made and acted. Watch it for the brilliance of Irrfan Khan for a role which can be remembered as role of his life. The romance between husband and wife has been handled with gentleness, with sequences such as the couple sends their children to buy “lemon-choos” so that they get some time alone.
The movie touches some serious issues of the Indian sports and Indian sports persons. In a scene where Pan Singh participated in Asian Games at Tokyo , the organizer gave him new spike shoes which become the cause of his defeat because the athlete never practiced with those shoes earlier and sponsors want to show that India can afford spike shoes shows the level of training in the country even applicable today
A biopic which throws a light on the poor conditions of our national level athletes, the unsung heroes who died an unknown death is the perfect synopsis for Paan Singh Tomar. Also, the film is an excellent critique of how outlaws are often a result of a corrupt and immoral society – nation, which could put into perspective a lot of our views on Naxalites. A quote from the movie, Paan Singh Tomar says it all – ‘In a race there are rules, rules which state that once you have started the race it doesn’t matter if you are ahead of behind or how much time it takes you have to reach the finish line’.
Rating- 4.5 out of 5
P.S – If you haven’t seen Tigmanshu’s Haasil, Sahib Biwi and Gangster please go and watch it NOW