Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Paan Singh Tomar

Rating: 7
Release Date: 2nd March, 2012
Time: 135 minutes
Director & Writer: Tigmanshu Dhulia; Music : Abhishek Ray
Starring : Irrfan, Mahie Gill, Zakir Hussain, Vipin Sharma, Imran Hasnee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Rajendra Gupta

Stop me when you think you’ve seen or heard it before. We in India treat our sporting heroes badly. If you’re poor, God help you because the system wont. Might is right, especially in villages. Our policemen are steeped in corruption, the court system inefficient. Justice delayed is justice denied. Ultimately, after a point trying the right way, you have no option left but to resort to violence.
The fact that, despite knowing all of the above, despite knowing where the story is heading, you still are engaged for 2 hours is a tribute to a fantastic performance by Irrfan, a very good ensemble cast, very funny dialogue and crisp editing.
Paan Singh Tomar, an army recruit, was naturally gifted as an athlete. He decided to join sports as the meager rations of the military men could not satisfy his voracious appetite. He wins many races, sets many records and then to solve a land dispute in his village, he takes premature retirement. Ultimately, the same dispute escalates, makes him take up arms and rebel against the system.
The setting, in the feared ravines of Chambal, with villages, along the UP and MP border. The rustic lingo and the one liners. The whole sequence involving the journalist. The deadpan delivery of Irrfan. His mannerisms and eccentricities. The omnipresent spectre of violence in that belt. Its an environment that really works, a setting that is rich and unusual enough to make you follow what is happening on screen.
I wish the second half was shorter. I wish it was all not so predictable. I wish things unfolded differently. I wish
One of the most telling dialogues in the film is the difference between a dacoit and a rebel. The system labels you a dacoit. But in reality you are a rebel, a product & outcome of the very same failed system. Paan Singh Tomar, after this film, stands taller in my eyes and that’s where the success of this film lies.


  1. As expected from Tigmanshu , Movie is quite brilliant in terms of Direction,Dialogues and editing. I was expecting some strong supporting character in the Film ,which didn’t emerge unlike HASIL.
    All in all a very good ,refreshing movie .

  2. another movie which is strong in the narrative and pace. value for money and time spent

  3. I'm a big fan of your reviews- both books and movies. I recently saw PST when they showed it on TV. Loved your review. I always want to go back and watch a movie again after reading your interesting tidbits. I'd missed out a few of the lines you mentioned. Maybe next time around...
    As someone mentioned, the scene where he demands answers from his cousin was great - especially, his understated reaction to one of his men shooting the cousin to death before PST was done "grilling" him.
    Re. "Faltu", my mother grew up in Bihar and I've heard her and her siblings use the word since ages...How is it a 90s creation? (Not asking you but the 1st commenter :-))
    BTW, hope you are doing well, after your recent loss. Best wishe

  4. Many thanks for this blogpost. I am glad you watched and liked this film; in my opinion, it is the best that Bollywood has produced thus far this year. You have already pointed out the important issues the film highlights, so I won’t go into that. Instead, allow me to comment upon a few aspects of the film that I found impressive.

    (i) It is very well-paced, capturing the entire trajectory of a man’s life within a running time of two hours or so, and not allowing the story to drag at any point. This is much easier said than done: to compress years, even decades, into minutes and hours requires a thorough understanding of the principles of storytelling. One has to convey the passing of time without letting too much time pass, and the dramatically interesting portions have to be highlighted while also allowing the quieter, more low-key moments to register. And I think Tigmanshu Dhulia, the director, has achieved this remarkably well. I appreciated how he divided the film into two clear halves, one showing Paan Singh Tomar’s life before he became a dacoit (as well as the factors that compel him to become one), and the other showing his life after he chooses to add his name to the list of ‘baaghis’ in Chambal. Not only does this give us a distinct, chronological understanding of his life, it also helps accentuate the tragedy of a fundamentally decent man being forced to resort to crime to save his family and salvage for himself the respect that the world refused to show him until he demanded it at gunpoint. And while Dhulia has used the drama of Paan Singh’s life as an athlete and as an outlaw to optimum effect, he has also allowed the man behind the legend to shine through, especially in the scenes with Paan Singh and his wife, as well as in his interactions with the members of his gang. These are the quieter moments that I spoke of, the ones that help in fleshing out the protagonist’s character. The moving back-and-forth in time—Paan Singh being interviewed in the present, and him retelling the events of the past—is also skillfully done. To sum up, every minute of the screen time has been used to convey something, either about the character of Paan Singh, or about the milieu that made him who he was. That’s some masterful filmmaking at work.