FILM – Paan Singh Tomar
Posted by Vivek on March 4, 2012 | 1 Comment
FILM – Paan Singh Tomar
PRODUCER – Ronnie Screwvala
DIRECTOR – Tigmanshu Dhulia
WRITER – Sanjay Chauhan, Tigmanshu Dhulia
CAST – Irfan Khan, Mahi Gill, Imran Hasnee, Jehangir Khan, Vipin Sharma
MUSIC – Abhishek Ray
In the 1950’s India saw a man of amazing grit, honesty and determination. He had a natural talent, that of being a fast runner. He also had a weakness, his large appetite. An army recruit, his meals were rationed so one day on knowing that the sports division has no restrictions on meal quantities, he decides to join sports. Just like that, in one instance not only does he change his life-path but director Tigmanshu Dhulia at once, gives us a stunning picture of his simplicity and our ground realities.
Paan Singh Tomar, the film, is full of such layered insights. It is based on the true story of a young army man who became the National Steeplchase Champion, winning India several accolades in the international arena for years. A man of character and unbending loyalty, the corrupt system of the country ultimately drove him to the edges of society, compelling him to become a rebel. Labelled as a dacoit, Paan Singh turned a rebel for revenge and as a means for survival right till his bloody end when he was killed in an encounter.
The film starts with a flashback. A reporter (A delectable Brijendra Kala) is interviewing Paan Singh, a feared and well-known dacoit for a recent murder of nine villagers. Paan Singh goes through his entire story and the film shows us the gradual growth of a young man into a champion, hero and then rebel. Irfan Khan’s extremely nuanced body language and complete control over his character refines the progression as much as it provides the most relishing experience of seeing an actor transform a character by sheer skill. He is as fluid as he is gritty and never lets us lose touch with his simplicity and circumstances. He has the opportunity to take centre-stage and glow. Instead, he chooses to inform the character with power and involvement. It is rare to see of combination of this degree of skill and commitment in an artist especially in Hindi cinema.
The film is as humane a biopic as one was to see. The subject is compelling and loaded with drama but Tigmanshu Dhulia takes an understated view of his subject. He presents it with as much gritty realism as quirk, lightening moments with an indispensable Irfan Khanesque humour. He balances the sub-text of the story, of portraying the unfairness to a hero by a system, with a focus on defining the man with as much heart as possible. It is for this he invests several layers to Paan Singh’s relationship with his wife and children. Mahi Gill, one of the most talented actresses we have, essays her role as the loving housewife with conviction and command over body language, accent and sensibility.
Several other secondary characters suggest a strong eye on performance and competent casting choices. Vipin Sharma as the supportive Major Masand, Imran Hasnee as the pious elder brother, Nawazuddin Siddiqui as the mole and Jehangir Khan as Bhanwar Singh, Tomar’s arch-enemy, all bring in beautiful performances to a perfectly power-packed and absorbing film.
The film, however, suffers a bit from choppy editing that becomes a little stilting at times. If reports of a long and winding film being cut down on the editing table are true then the film suffers from this lack of an expansive perspective that usually takes germ at the writing stage. However, the nuanced writing, of character and events, remains compelling and absorbing throughout.
The film is packaged in a dusty and desaturated manner, in almost with the same humility as was the badge of its hero. Shot in the hinterlands of Chambal’s ravines, the camera captures the barrenness of the valley with superb effect.
Paan Singh Tomar is the story of an unsung hero and fittingly is dedicated to several others like him. It tells its story with a definite bias for the under-dog but it tells it with so much conviction and passion that one cannot help but admire the skill behind the film as much as one admires the hero it unabashedly celebrates.