Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Paan Singh Tomar - Athlete To Dacoit

It had been over 10days since the movie had released, and i had been wanting to watch, but tickets, timing just wasnt working out. A friend and i kept chatting about the movie, we looked at tickets, we discussed with others, until finally one morning we decided "Lets go for the movie tonight" and the friend said he'd drop me home.. 
We were off to watch Paan Singh Tomar, one of the lesser known unsung heroes of our country. It is the story of how an Athlete became a dacoit and met his end...
Starring: Irrfan Khan, Mahie Gill, Vipin Sharma, Rajendra Gupta, Zakir Hussain,Khan Jahangir Khan and many others...
Paan Singh Tomar (Irrfan Khan) is a village lad who joins the army, and is eager to eat as much as he can.When one day his commanding officer stops him from taking another roti, saying "go join the athletes, they get unlimited food", Paan Singh takes his word and joins the team. He sure can run, endlessly without tiring and once he finishes the race, he heads towards the food cart.. He excels in the Steeplechase race bringing glory to the Indian Army and the country. Infact, at the race, he wears shoes like others, but finds it difficult to run, and takes them off to go on and win the race.. Such sweet heart felt moments!!

There is one scene that stood out, where one of his officers dares him to take a block of ice cream, deliver it at home to his wife without the ice cream melting... And Paan Singh does accomplish the task within no time! :)

He marries, has a child and returns to the army. But when on a visit home, one of his cousins plays dirty and beats up his son mercilessly. The police officers refuse to lodge any sort of complaint against the cousin. To make matters worse, when Paan Singh shows off his medals and service, he is mocked by the police. He gets angry and vows to take revenge, taking matters into his own hands. Things turn ugly, and one day the cousin breaks into his house, kills his mom and is after Paan Singh. He sends his wife and daughter away, and decides to fight the battle, killing his cousin in the process. 

With a group of friends & relatives, he forms a gang, and transforms into the Dacoit of the Chambal valley. The police  hot on his trail of Paan Singh Tomar. He finds it ironic that no one cared about him when he won alll those races and brought glory, but today when he is in hiding, and has become a dacoit the whole world seems to be after him. 
One of the members in his gang brings them to a town to stay at an old man's place when Paan Singh realises he has been trapped by one of his own. The police circle the area leaving them with no escape route. Their drink has been poisoned, leaving them weak and helpless. The battle rages on till finally Paan Singh falls prey to one of the bullets... 
The film kinda grows on you, and we were left talking about what a great person he must have been and how nobody even knows of Paan Singh Tomar today... There were quite a few moments in the movie where our hearts tug for Paan Singh, wishing we could help him and feeling his pain, and agony.... 
The entire movie is narrated by Paan Singh Tomar in an interview to a journalist in a small town....
In the end , just before the credits, a list of all the national players who died penniless or are in a sad state scrolls on the screen, making us realise what we saw was just a drop in the ocean.  

I sure hope more such Paan Singh s are discovered and brought to visiblity by directors like Tigmanshu Dhulia through articles/news clippings [like how he stumbled upon Paan Singh Tomar ]
Rating : 4/5
Direction: 4/5
Acting: Irrfan Khan- 6/5


malayalam sms said...

The use of music in the film—spare and occasional—is a refreshing change, given that most of our films find it mandatory to include multiple songs (never mind that they often bring the narrative to a crashing halt), most of them featuring women in various stages of undress. In contrast, here, we don’t find any songs except some folk lyrics that are a part of the background score, and the background score itself is fairly subdued, even during the dramatic high points. Kudos to the composer, Abhishek Ray, for understanding exactly what kind of music this film requires, and composing the soundtrack accordingly.
(iv) I was really moved when Paan Singh tells the journalist why he killed a group of men who had informed the police about the whereabouts of his gang, which resulted in his “chacha” being shot dead. “Nihatye the, lekin nirdosh nahin”, he says about the informers; that those men he killed were unarmed, but not guiltless. There is a yearning in his voice, a desperation, to make the journalist understand the reasons behind his actions, so that the readers can know about Paan Singh’s point-of-view and his side of the story before they demonize him as a ruthless, cold-blooded killer. It is to Dhulia’s credit, and also, of course, Irrfan Khan’s, that we indeed see where Paan Singh comes from and even empathize with him, despite the fact that he has taken lives.

vissal santh said...

Many thanks for this blogpost. I am glad you watched and liked this film; in my opinion, it is the best that Bollywood has produced thus far this year. You have already pointed out the important issues the film highlights, so I won’t go into that. Instead, allow me to comment upon a few aspects of the film that I found impressive.

(i) It is very well-paced, capturing the entire trajectory of a man’s life within a running time of two hours or so, and not allowing the story to drag at any point. This is much easier said than done: to compress years, even decades, into minutes and hours requires a thorough understanding of the principles of storytelling. One has to convey the passing of time without letting too much time pass, and the dramatically interesting portions have to be highlighted while also allowing the quieter, more low-key moments to register. And I think Tigmanshu Dhulia, the director, has achieved this remarkably well. I appreciated how he divided the film into two clear halves, one showing Paan Singh Tomar’s life before he became a dacoit (as well as the factors that compel him to become one), and the other showing his life after he chooses to add his name to the list of ‘baaghis’ in Chambal. Not only does this give us a distinct, chronological understanding of his life, it also helps accentuate the tragedy of a fundamentally decent man being forced to resort to crime to save his family and salvage for himself the respect that the world refused to show him until he demanded it at gunpoint. And while Dhulia has used the drama of Paan Singh’s life as an athlete and as an outlaw to optimum effect, he has also allowed the man behind the legend to shine through, especially in the scenes with Paan Singh and his wife, as well as in his interactions with the members of his gang. These are the quieter moments that I spoke of, the ones that help in fleshing out the protagonist’s character. The moving back-and-forth in time—Paan Singh being interviewed in the present, and him retelling the events of the past—is also skillfully done. To sum up, every minute of the screen time has been used to convey something, either about the character of Paan Singh, or about the milieu that made him who he was. That’s some masterful filmmaking at work.