Harish Jharia

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07 April 2012

Film Review: Paan Singh Tomar (A Movie Based On the Life of an Army soldier... turned national athlete... turned Dacoit from Chambal)

   The real Paan Singh Tomar

© Harish Jharia 

There have been many Indian movies made with bandits as their main characters. Nevertheless, the film ‘Paan Singh Tomar’ directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia and produced by Ronnie Screwvala is quite different from all of them. The film is being distributed by UTV Motion Pictures and UTV Spotboy Motion Pictures and has been released on 2 Mar 2012.

This movie is quite different and outstanding because of the realistic presentation of the story and the characters, without any makeup and loud and imaginary outfits. While Irrfan (Khan has since been removed from his name) plays the lead role of paan Singh Tomar, Mahie Gill plays the character of his rustic villager wife. Vipin Sharma of ‘Taare Zameen Par’ fame plays a pivotal role of an army officer in the movie. Rajendra Gupta has portrayed an important character of Paan Singh Tomar’s sports coach in the Army.  

            Irrfan as Paan Singh Tomar

Story Line in the Movie:

Paan Singh Tomar is strong and lanky young man, fond of eating food and long distance running. He belongs to a joint family of village farmers in a village ‘Bhidausa’ near Morena situated in the Chambal ravines of Madhya Pradesh state of India. His adventurist nature eventually leads him to join the Indian Army.

Paan Singh Tomar has been portrayed as a jolly and carefree primary school dropout in the beginning of the movie. He uses to go out of the way to eat food far more than his friends colleagues and family members. This aspect of Paan Singh Tomar has been categorically projected by the director just to let the film-viewers feel the enormous energy he possessed and the fuel required to run the powerful machine he had in the form of his body. 

     Mahie Gill as Paan Singh Tomar's wife

The stamina, speed and power possessed by Paan Singh were noticed by his commanding officer Major Masand (played by Vipin Sharma) who in turn recommended him to be enrolled in the Army Sports and Games Coaching Centre. The Army sports coach (played by Rajendra Gupta) felt proud to have Paan Singh as his trainee and left no stone unturned while making efforts to make him a great steeplechase champion. 

Paan Singh Tomar created the national steeplechase record in the 1958 National Games in Cuttack with a timing of 9min 12.4sec and broke his own record in the 1964 Open Meet in Delhi with a timing of 9min 4sec. Paan Singh Tomar carries the honor of being seven-time national steeplechase champion during the period from 1950s to 1960s in India. 

He represented India in the 1958 Asian Games in Tokyo, Japan and as depicted in the film he could not win that event because he was asked to run on the tracks with spikes on, for the first time; whereas he was imparted training with canvas sports shoes in the Coaching Centre.

In spite of all these honors Paan Singh Tomar is not recognized by the Authorities and goes unnoticed all through the rest of his life. As shown in the film, one day he finds his agricultural fields unlawfully captured by his cousins while he was away on job in the Indian Army. His family is rendered landless and is beaten-up by the rogue relatives. He runs around to the police and other authorities for seeking justice but is rebuked and shoed off by them out of their offices. 

The first complex of the film reaches just before ‘Intermission’, when Paan Singh and his brothers went out to the adjoining city for approaching the police, leaving behind his mother, wife and sons alone at home. Taking advantage of this situation, Paan Singh’s cousins lead by Bhanvar Singh, harvested the entire yields of his sugarcane crop, stole the same and torched the remaining twigs in the fields to a ravaging inferno. Thereafter Bhanvar Singh invaded his house and started devastating the household items. Alarmed with the first sight of the invaders, his family members ran away from their house. But his old mother was left behind.  Bhanvar Singh caught hold of her and beat her ruthlessly.  

Paan Singh got the information about this cruel devastation of his family, house and crops when he was on his way back to home. His supporters gathered around him and the innocent loyal army-man, turned international athlete, donned a new incarnation of a dreaded bandit. After intermission the film is full of dacoity, murders, abductions and encounters. 

Paan Singh Tomer fondly addressed as ‘Subedar ji’ by his gang and the rural people of the entire border areas including parts of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, emerged as the strongest authority after the Police and local administration. 
He was regarded the friend of poor and oppressed and the deadly threat for the wealthy oppressors. 

The second and final climax in the story came at the end of the movie when a huge armed police force of about a couple of hundred soldiers, attacked Paan Singh Tomer and his gang of about twenty bandits, with automatic guns and killed him in an encounter.  The police planned the encounter with the help of an informer who drugged Paan Singh and his gang at night. A member of Paan Singh’s gang ‘Gopi’ also ditched him by absconding along with the entire stock of ammunition. 

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Star Cast:
  1. Irrfan .... Paan Singh Tomar
  2. Mahie Gill.... Paan Singh Tomar's wife
  3. Vipin Sharma.... Major Masand
  4. Imran Hasnee.... Matadeen Singh Tomar
  5. Nawazuddin Siddiqui.... Gopi
  6. Zakir Hussain.... Inspector Rathore
  7. Rajendra Gupta.... Sports Coach
  8. Khan Jahangir Khan.... Bhanwar Singh
  9. Brijendra Kala.... Journalist
  10. Sitaram Panchal.... Ramcharan 
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