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Paan Singh Tomar is the Baap of biopics

Prakash.Gowda Prakash Gowda | Exclusive |

“Jab International medal jeete tab koi kuch nahi bola. Aaj jab bandook utha liye to sab Paan Singh ki maala jap rahe,” rues Irrfan Khan as Paan Singh Tomar in the film, which resonates with the fact that “Jab international film Namesake kiya tab koi kuch nahi bola. Aaj jab 4.5 crore ka box office opening bana diya to sab Irrfan ki maala japne lage.”

The actor has always deserved a standing ovation, be it his first film with Tigmanshu Dhulia in Haasil (he also played a brief role in the lesser-known film, ‘Ek doctor ki maut’ starring Pankaj Kapoor) or the latest, Paan Singh Tomar. It’s like coming full circle with this masterpiece of a film. Irrfan was trained in steeplechase under national coach Satpal Singh for this role, which shows in the meticulous rhythm of his sprints.

Narrated in his inimitable style by Irfan to a nervous journalist excellently essayed by Brijendra Kala, the film handholds us throughout the journey of Paan Singh Tomar, right from his formative years as a reed army subedaar with big appetite for food (he sprints across a town with an ice cream block and delivers it in four minutes, without letting it to melt, just to earn his entry into army sports, where he’d get more food), to the rebellious athlete wishing to reach the finishing line of his race against law.

The dialogues are generously sprinkled with Bundeli or Budelkhandi, the dialect of Madhya Pradesh spoken across Chambal valley, from Sagar, Shivpuri, and Gwalior, to the surrounding vicinity of Dholpur in Rajasthan. The dialogues are flawlessly engaging and surprisingly clean.

Director Tigmanshu Dhulia proves the fact that a film set against the rural India milieu can be made sans gaali-galochs ala Omkara, Bandit Queen, or Ishqiya. The very decision of handpicking actors from Bundeli dramatics has indeed paid off in portraying lifelike characters. Mahie Gill excels at playing the role of Paan Singh Tomar’s wife, shedding away her glam avatar and bringing the actor in her to the fore.

The germ of Paan Singh Tomar was planted in Dhulia’s head in 1991 when he stumbled upon a magazine article on Paan Singh Tomar. Back then, he was employed as a casting director for Shekhar Kapur’s Bandit Queen, an experience which must have surely come handy while making this film. Having lost the magazine twice, Tigmanshu Dhulia went on to retrieve the article on Paan Singh Tomar from the ABP archives. He began hunting for producers just to back up his research costs, as no detail on Paan Singh Tomar was available except for the fact that he was an athlete who turned into a dacoit or ‘baaghi’ as Paan Singh would like to put it.

The film grows on you after you leave the auditorium. The scene where Irrfan admits that the box of ice cream he receives from his senior during his retirement is the biggest award he could have ever won, and the encounter scene where he reminisces of his glory days is sure to induce some goose-bump moments – a rare occurrence these days while watching films.

Before you come to grips with the tragic end of Paan Singh Tomar, the end credit scrolls a list of national players who died penniless or are leading a life of penury, which means the story you just witnessed is merely a tip of the iceberg. More of such Paan Singh Tomars are lurking in the darkness of desolation, until a filmmaker like Tigmanshu Dhulia stumbles upon some magazine article and decides to breathe life into them.

After biopic films like Gandhi, Meera, Nayakan, Mayuri, Legend of Bhagat Singh, Dada Saheb Ambedkar, Gandhi my father, Guru, Bandit Queen, Mangal Pandey, Harishchandrachi Factory, and The Dirty Picture, Paan Singh Tomar is indeed a biopic that stands tall. This is simply because the film is about a common man (sorry for using this done-to-death phrase)’s angst against the system.

Paan Singh Tomar has garnered rave reviews at London Film Festival, Abu Dhabi Film Festival, South Asian International Film Festival 2010, and New York Film Festival, and is sure to move you. At Institute of Moving Images, we hope it bags highest accolades in our nation, and not end up with a ‘Critic’s Choice Award’, where Irfan would applaud for a superstar who’d take away the Best Actor Award for a mindless escapist film. Well, I can almost see Irfan nodding and saying, “Kaho haan.”

29 Responses to Paan Singh Tomar is the Baap of biopics

  1. I also loved this movie….
    I was searching for real pan singh while i found this article… which ws just speaking out what my mind was saying..

    exactly, its da best biopic bollywood ever made.. n Irfan Khan's acting is awesome.. his dialogue narration seems so real..

  2. JOse says:

    saw the movie today. no words to express my appreciation. story well told, acted brilliantly ….irfan and mahie are awesome..
    its really unfortunate that a national hero like pan singh had to become a dacoit..who knows how many such pan sings are there…

  3. S-- says:

    كس امكم

  4. Hotelier Praveen says:

    The film is awesm n i simply hv no wrds abt the realistic acting of the boombart actor mr.Irfan khan… When i enjyd al d movie i saw in the last that pan singh is nt a imaginory character , bt he iz real..So i started his search on google

  5. sajal says:

    the movie is awesome ,acting done by irrfan khan is outstanding ,hats off to actor,director &the character.

  6. richa says:

    outstanding movie and no doubt heads of tothe lead player paan singh tomer ( Irfaan khan) amazing act as always

  7. ajay karalkar says:

    I like the movie He is real hero in his life. i salute paan singh tomer
    and request to our gover ment In future nowill give onther pan singh life (Any Sport man )

  8. rakesh says:

    my hart thching

  9. anushka says:

    kyo nahi paan singh ya dhyanchand jaise logo ko bharat ratna mile…… ki sachin tendulkar ko jo apne liye khlte hai…not 4r the team

  10. shantanu says:

    irfan khan is awesome as always & the movie is great treat to watch
    film makers should try to make films on these great topics instead of making masala films

  11. vasanth says:

    what a movie! One of the best I have seen in recent times.
    Powerful narrative and performances and all the more tragic that it is based on real life .
    hope the sports ministry officials watched it .

  12. rajkumar says:

    having seen the movie i knew all the real fact about Paan Singh, i loved him but now worship him !!!!!!!!!!!!

  13. mukesh says:

    Pan singh tomar real hero But i 'm very very sorry for the failuere of our adminitration andpolice in M.P. that time

  14. shanker Mishra says:

    awesome movie ever I have seen till now.. excellent work by Irfan bhai….I salute pan Singh………….

  15. Anup Rajput says:

    first of all hats off to mr paan si gh tne first man that i have been see tnat who had done whatever he wants……

  16. Priyanka rai says:

    today frm Sony Max i did watch this movie n i simply luved it n rt now now am surfing the net to get more idea's n I would luv to hug Irfan Ji for the mind blowing performance N salute to the Director. What a movie?

  17. Joeii says:

    First of all a grand salute to Mr. Paan Singh Tomar from my heart. His life story touched my heart. May God bless his soul for the rest. He is a real super hero undoubtedly!!!!

  18. Chandan says:

    Really he was a Super hero. but this is our systems failure…really our system doesn't care about this type of great talent & great person, they care about only Neharu's & Gandhi's.

  19. Chandan says:

    Salute to Great Sir Pan Singh Tomar…

  20. rocky says:

    this incident is the cruel story of indian politics a person who served whole life for the country.same country make him decoit becuse of dirty policitcs

    i salute to paan singh tomar the real hero

  21. NARENDRA says:

    Aise kitne Pan singh tomar, gumnam hogaye hamara desh may,


  22. yogesh says:

    really good movie, after watching movie, i searched pan singh tomer biography on google. really good movie and good acting by ifran khan. great

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