Paan Singh Tomar is a new film tracing the life of a forgotten Indian sports champion who became a bandit.
A seven time national steeplechase champion, and an armyman, becomes a rebel and loses his life in a police encounter in 1981. That is the fascinating and tragic story of Pan Singh Tomar who ruled the long distance field of India during the 1950s. What comes as a surprise though is the time it took for a film to be made on this forgotten track and field champion.
Tigmanshu Dhulia's Pan Singh Tomar is a tribute to this forgotten hero turned bandit.
The story itself is so interesting that half the job is done for any filmmaker. It traces the life of a soft spoken village guy whose life turns upside down when a family land dispute turns messy.
The movie performs in all departments. Be it the realistic portrayal of the rural areas by the director, the engaging background score by Sandeep Chowta, or the cinematography by Aseem Mishra which captures the ravines of chambal as beautifully as the steeplechases. The dialogues complement the characters well and there is a consistency in the language used throughout.
The 135 minutes movie duration ensures that unnecessary item numbers or song sequence finds no space in the movie.
Every character plays his part well. From the supporting cast, Vipin Sharma as Major Masand and Rajendra Gupta as the sports coach stands out.
After Haasil this is Dhulia's best effort. His masterstroke was choosing Irrfan Khan to play the lead role. If you look at the picture of the original Pan Singh, you won't miss the look in his eyes. Irrfan matches this intensity and in what resounding way! The actor brings alive a young lad from a village in Madhya Pradesh. You can feel his hunger for food which gradually turns into a hunger for accepting challenges, his passion for the homeland, his frustrations with the justice system, and his conviction in choosing a path which engulfed him eventually. An understated yet first-rate performace which could have very well been played to the gallery, if not for Irrfan.
This is one Khan who has created his own league of not-so-loud memorable characters. Watch the movie just for him, everything else would come as a bonus.
---Inam Abidi Amrohvi, Editor, The Other News