‘Paan Singh Tomar’: The Story of an Outlaw Athlete



It’s a great biopic reflecting the life of Paan Singh Tomar. He, born in 1932, was a foot soldier before being discovered as a stout runner of six-foot-tall who ran like a mighty horse.


Steeplechase was his forte where he excelled and emerged as a national hero, and set and broke many records. He brought glory to the nation as he led India at many International Games.


The nation decorated him with gold medals, and very soon announced booty on his head as the hero had turned into a villain, a fugitive… an outlaw.


It is said that it was the circumstances which made him a ‘rebel’. Justice was all that he had wanted; he tried to get it by muscle, but died without getting it.


It is a very sad story of a soldier who fought a legendary fight with system, circumstances and prejudices for justice.


Though he always repented not being able to fight with enemies on the borders as they (army athletes) were considered ‘national treasure’, history will always remember him as a brave soldier.


One Man vs. Whole System : Paan Singh Tomar


Indian Police & Law Enforcement, with all due respect, is considered to be one of the organizations with the worst reputations in the world.


Corruption, inactivity, biased acts, etc., are a few blots to name on their reputations. It was a common property dispute with relatives which had triggered Paan Singh Tomar to get proper justice.


The Panchayat (village-meeting) had failed to get him justice. He went to the Police; there he was humiliated and turned back. He also went to the District Collector and asked for justice; they could do no good.


Meanwhile, his family suffered and became the victim of the poor system as they were attacked and threatened on many occasions.


Things turned out of control and they had to run away from the village for life. And finally, Paan Singh Tomar decided to live as a Baaghi (a rebel) and tried to get justice with gun in hand. He, with his associates, lived in the ravines of Chambal River, a vast barren land where only the roughest could survive.


After a few years, in his exile, he hunted down his enemies and killed them one by one. Later in time, after taking his revenge and failing to live as a ‘good’ robber, he was gunned down in a plotted police encounter. There he died with his other ten associates.


Revival of Indian Cinema : Paan Singh Tomar


Indian Cinema which has been suffering from the tedious ‘ romance syndrome’ was rejuvenated as the film hit the theatres.


Tigmanshu Dhulia, the director, had put great effort into giving a life to such a subject which is considered to be dull to the Indian audience.


Dhulia’ s decisions on cinematography, music, dialects and actors were commendable. He had demonstrated his talent before in many other movies as well. He is one of the most promising and gifted filmmakers who have taken Indian cinema to another level.


Great Actors and Greater Performances : Paan Singh Tomar


Internationally acclaimed actor Irrfan Khan, who is known for his excellent performance in movies such as The Amazing Spider-Man, Life of Pi, Slumdog Millionaire, etc., has played the role of protagonist Paan Singh Tomar.


And he has done justice to the character. He, moreover, shuts his critics’ mouths by winning National Film Award for Best Actor in the year 2012.


The way he had converted himself into a completely different character of Paan Singh Tomar was surprisingly wonderful, in my opinion.


Rachel Saltz of The New York Times writes ‘he shows his basic honesty and gives him real depth. As an actor Mr. Khan rarely does the expected. You can’t take your eyes off him.’


The antagonist’s role played by Jahangir Khan as Bhawar Singh was no less impressive. Other actors were completely hued in the perfect colors of their characters.


If you have an interest in watching international cinema and understanding geography, history and culture through it, you must watch it.


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Rajeev Masand’s review: “Directed competently by Dhulia, who’s familiar and comfortable even with the dusty terrain, Paan Singh Tomar is made with great attention to detail, and paints an honest, realistic picture of an India few of us can claim to know.”


Avijit Ghosh of The Times of India: “Sportsmen and outlaws inhabit two different universes. One shines amidst the bright lights of glory, the other haunts the ravines of notoriety.


But in director Tigmanshu Dhulia’s biopic, Paan Singh Tomar, the two worlds collide. And the result is a rather exquisite blend of drama, humour and tragedy; altogether eminently enjoyable good cinema”.


Aseem Chhabra for Rediff.com: “The tragedy of Paan Singh Tomar and Irrfan Khan’s execution of the role are both compelling.”


Taran Adarsh of Bollywood Hungama: “Paan Singh Tomar shatters the standard rules of this genre. Besides, the film makes you cognizant that serious cinema can be uniformly delightful, like any other enthralling entertainer.”


Blessy Chettiar of DNA: “Gritty and power packed, Paan Singh Tomar is a tribute to the unsung heroes of sports in India. Dhulia’s direction and Irrfan’s integrity will make [it] among the best movies of recent times.”.


Shubhra Gupta of The Indian Express gave the film 4 out of 5 stars and said “Paan Singh Tomar is a completely gripping, near-flawless film, with such few dodgy parts as to be negligible.”


Mathures Paul of The Statesman: “Paan Singh Tomar is a skillfully narrated tale of one man who rises against the odd.”


Anurag Kashyap: “What a powerful film, powerful character, go watch the film. Turn it into what no-one believed it could be.”


Review Quotes Courtesy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paan_Singh_Tomar_(film)

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