Tigmanshu Dhulia does it again! After the cinematic treat that Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster was, this year the man traces the life-story of Paan Singh Tomar (PST) – from being a selfless army man to a National level athlete to an equally celebrated dacoit (rebel) as Paan Singh addresses himself.
A biopic, especially on someone with as less historical support as PST, demands grueling research and Dhulia deserves a pat on his back for doing his homework well and telling Tomar’s tale in the most impactful and entertaining style.
And besides, Dhulia if there is someone else who deserve adulation for this fine piece of cinema is lead actor Irrfan Khan, who is awe-inspiring. You just can’t take your eyes off the screen when the actor is in the frame. It is a pleasure to see him depicting pleasure and pathos of Paan Singh at various stages of life (from late teens to his 50s) through his intense eyes and expressions.
Dhulia has beautifully captured the transformation of the innocentTomar, who flirts with his wife (Mahie Gill) has Japanese female fan into a merciless outlaw. Despite all his ruthless ways, your heart goes out to PST and his gang of goons – for the simple fact that he is what our unjust society has made him.
Performance wise, the film has a lot to offer. Mahie Gill who plays Tomar’swife is brilliant as a restrained woman. Despite having less screen space, she has managed to shine out. All other supporting cast including Vipin Sharma and Rajendra Gupta bring their share of brilliance to the film.
Some of the remarkable scenes in the film include When Tomar agrees to give away his sport for the good of his coach’s daughter, Irrfan is brilliant in the phone-conversation with his senior, who rewards him with a final ice cream. And last but not the least, after he kills his enemy the way Irrfan expresses his anger and frustration at being left without answers is simply praiseworthy.
Tomarwho hails from Madhya Pradesh, joins the armed forces in 1950 for that’s the only government body that’s untouched by corruption according to him. Considered as a perfect recipe for mutiny’ with a family history of dacoits, Paan is more interested in food than any other service. And his love for tummy-full meals brings this natural sportsman into real sports. It’s quite comical to see him enjoying a punishment to run 10 rounds of the ground. Soon, you see this sprinter breaking records in steeplechase and bringing home national and international laurels.
In the second half, Tomar retires from Army. But a family argument over a piece of land, for which he approaches the police, shatters his belief in the system and Indian army and a believer transforms into a rebel, who takes up arms for his family and honour. To avenge a hurt ego (he is asked to proof of the national acclaims), a dead mother and a beaten to pulp son, he resorts to the power of gun.
The film is set in villages of Madhya Pradesh including Morena and Chambal. And everything including the local Bundelkhandi dialect to costumes and supporting cast add to the rustic look. But lack of understanding of the lingo that can become a minus too! The film gives you a peep into the unseen India. Also, it’s nice to see how Dhulia reminds us that the film is set in 50s In one of the scenes a radio plays the news of cancer-stricken Nargis Dutt.
Quite akin to a Dhulia film, dialogues (witty one-liners and emotional) are once again impactful and real for the setting and situations. In fact, they intensify the script. Despite being a predictable plot, the screenplay doesn’t give you a single boring moment leaving you on the edge most of the time, except for some part of second half, where the film slackens and becomes a routine revenge story. Cinematography is good and musically the film doesn’t have much to offer expect the theme song. On the contrary, not finding the much-talked about Kero Mama from Arjun leaves you disappointed.
With PST, Dhulia sheds light on a brutal and shameful reality of India, which has stayed on with it despite the death of so many unsung sportsmen that cricket is our God and we don’t care about any other sport or sportsmen, who are our real national heroes.
Paan Singh Tomar is a film that goes beyond the commercial potboilers, contrived scripts and item numbers that we usually swoon by in the name of mega hits. And it is remarkable to see how Dhulia steers clear from any such commercial baits to garner eyeballs and makes a film that’s engaging, compelling and entertaining.
Definitely a must-watch movie!