Movie Review: Paan Singh Tomar


A journalist (Brijendra Kala) finally manages to meet Paan Singh Tomar, the famous Irrfan Khan for an exclusive interview. The dacoit yell him the story of his life since he joined the army in 1950, 31 years earlier. Like every young man, he was very simple, from his childhood in northern Madhya Pradesh, and dreamed only of defending India, his homeland.


But it is in the sport he became famous when his extraordinary talent for running made him a star in the 50s and 60s. Incorporating military sports team, he became national champion steeplechase records and take him to the pan-1958 Asian Games in Tokyo, far from his native village.

At the end of his sports career, he left the army with the rank subedar (captain) to return to care for the family farm. It's a neighborhood dispute that will set fire to the powder. Justice as the local police are not interested in his case despite his past notoriety sports champion. Helpless, he loses some of his land and his family members are even seriously molested. To assert its rights and revenge, he enters banditry over 45 years, becoming one of the dacoits of the Chambal River Valley.

The Tigmanshu Dhulia film is a biopic, the film biography of a real person. The interview that starts the film has actually been given to Gwalior by Paan Singh journalist Hemendra Narayan, end March 1981, just days after the massacre of Pawa-Pawata. But this interview that can tell much of the course Paan Singh, was actually much shorter than would suggest the 1:45 flashback in the film. Malignant way, it nevertheless provides a solid basis for the description, in the last half hour of the following 6 months, when police ended up taking his case seriously and relentlessly hounding the former champion.

Paan Singh was a dacoit, ie armed bandit scum band organized the northeast of India, from Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. Criminal gangs infest even today this arid region, ransoming travelers and villages, attacking trains and removing the locals to extort money from their families. Indian cinema has often portrayed sometimes almost romantic way but as they usually are, ie the image of the ignoble Gabbar Singh in Sholay .

Paan Singh Tomar is certainly more subtle, but it makes quite a few cases of the victims of the Gaza Paan Singh. Those are murdered in retaliation, or are police officers or informants; as if it could constitute a justification to murder. It will even have us believe that those abducted almost deserved their fate because of their dissolute life. Sometimes seen a semblance of regret in the eye of Paan Singh. But there is more haunted by his own fate by remorse. For him, the victims are a little guilty.

The reverse is also true here, the perpetrators are also victims. As in Bandit Queen which was Tigmanshu Dhulia assistant, mismanagement of the company created the dacoit. Both the martyr Phoolan Devi could explain some of its actions, as it is difficult to consider the State's inaction in a private property dispute as justification to several years of sectional set up an entire region. Yet it is the film's message, posted at the end: This film is dedicated to the forgotten history of Indian sports hero. Followed by a dead sport litany of names in misery. As if the lack of recognition of the country legitimized the criminal route Paan Singh.

India which is shown in this film is that of the underdeveloped countryside, far away from the magic of Bollywood. Even more than in their poverty, the Western viewer is struck by fatalism and passivity of villagers. They are literally crushed between guerrillas disguised as dacoits and police units anti-dacoity that are also very few cases of human life, to the point of exhibiting the corpses as was done in the wild tiger hunts once . But it is difficult to see a political message in Paan Singh Tomar . The detailed description of these remote and poverty-stricken places seems to be justified to emphasize the realism of the biography.

This truth is borne by Irrfan Khan, who is once again masterful. Surprisingly, it is equally credible when playing the character at age 20 and 50. Even better, it is very comfortable in the long running passages, when he was 42 years old at the time shooting. One would think that this man has no age! He takes here the monotone and chiseled sentences that were the salt of Billu. With remarkable economy of means, he manages to pass both a tongue-in-cheek unmistakable anger of man trampled or even the fear of death. That's all it embodies a sober Paan Singh introverted and endearing, which runs from submission to the army to revolt in the labyrinth of the Chambal Valley.

All secondary roles such as Paan Singh's wife, Indira, played by Mahie Gill, or coach played by Rajendra Gupta, are perfectly in place and strengthen the credibility of the film. The story is told in a linear manner, complete and without last minute surprises. The first part describes the sporting climb Paan Singh, the second his work criminal. However, we understand quickly that the race will have to end one way or another, and it is not safe to come out the winner.

Tigmanshu Dhulia said the desire to make this biography he had come on the set of Bandit Queen in 1994. As in the movie Shekhar Kapur, the real story is in itself extraordinary and compelling enough for it was not necessary to add artificial moments of tension or musical interludes. But unlike his predecessor, he applied himself to write a movie that sticks as much as possible to historical truth without any omission come alter the understanding of events.

One might think that the dacoit films now are struggling to convince distributors for Paan Singh Tomar was shot in 2009 but could not get out on the screens in March 2012. Fortunately and to everyone's surprise, the performance of actors, Irrfan Khan in the lead, and perfectly controlled narrative pushed the spectators in the galleries beyond all expectation.

Despite his pace a little slow and questionable message, it biopic allows viewing without displeasure. It takes us without getting bored for a second in the Chambal River Valley to tell a deeply Indian history, that of the forgotten Paan Singh Tomar life, middle-distance runner and ruthless dacoit.
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