A reporter interviewed Paan Singh Tomar (Irfan Khan), one of the most feared gangsters in the Chambal Valley. He tells how he became an outlaw. In the 1950s the simple farmer entered the army, where the officers recognized his talent as a runner. They shared it in the sports team, where he trained himself in the 3000-meter hurdle race.
For seven years in a row he won the national championship in India. But a bloody conflict in his home forced him to return to the valley. The situation escalated as Paan Singh Tomar's mother lost her life. The sports hero vowed vengeance and retreated into the mountains, where he trained his faithful with military discipline.
The amount of legendary gangsters in India is immense. Each region has its famous villains, its rebels and is not surprising in such a huge country with such a turbulent history. But in the center of India, especially many of these figures, including in the Chambal Valley, a region sometimes referred to as gangland that brought us Phoolan Devi. When Shekhar Kapur filmed her life in Bandit Queen, Tigmanshu Dhulia (Haasil) was also active as a director, actor and screenwriter, and then heard by Paan Singh Tomar.
His story is so fascinating that he becomes part of a film who goes on from a farmer to a soldier to the sports star to the gangster. And since such a career not only requires fitness but also a lot of acting force, Dhulia turned to Irfan Khan. He embodies the man with heartfeltness and delivers one of his best achievements. Khan is so good that he carries the film alone and takes it with him every minute.
The negative is that all the other characters become irrelevant, even his muse (played by Mahie Gill) and the two children are forgotten when Paan Singh Tomar devotes himself to life as an outlaw. This reduces the drama, because many possibilities to move the viewers are left out. We get Irrfan Khan in all sorts of impressive scenes from when he asks the police for help, where he is naive and hopeful and then is full of anger and aggression and then we know that this man must undergo an incredible change and also because of the circumstances of society. All this contributes to the complexity of the film.
But it also has a lot to offer from the pictures, especially from the Chambal valley, which are of earthy, timeless power and the assembly is fluid and the background soundtrack pleasantly and discreetly used. Paan Singh Tomar is definitely worth seeing. It is all the more amazing that it already went through the usual festival cycle in 2010. After all, this low-budget film became one of the surprise hits. And this is definitely worthy of its qualities and the not necessarily publicly effective content.