7 time steeplechase National Champion, sole representation of the country in 1958 Tokyo Asian games and the winner in 1967 International Defence Meet.
Paan Singh who?? I am sorry but pages of history don’t speak and we by our own confessions, have the inimitable ability to ignore, forget and most importantly, never augment the commencement of myriad future. Alas, we never realised when and how a national champion was gutted while the nation was with its oblivious self.
A sensitive and almost sunk biopic about one of our non celebrated champions, ‘Paan Singh Tomar’ is arguably, Tigmanshu’s most potent work. Extracted from true events, it has the stamp of addictive filmmaking. I was thrilled to watch the protagonist grow from the tracks to his traumatic lull back home and his stint with the Army that looked formidable, yet appeared off the hook. He was a Phoenix with ashes of gold, and yet, his perennial necessity was survival amongst the gory gods soaked in a culture of savage minds.
It’s a pity to watch our governments and administration turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to our heroes (though, it was never acknowledged) and we forget that glory is probably the most dangerous visitor. We know when it comes, but it leaves without a trace. But what it leaves behind is probably man’s most despicable assets. Rest, as they say, ceases to exist. For Paan Singh Tomar, the latter never bestowed upon him and he wasn’t the punter to sail without hamstrings. Local police and Army failed to punch the holes Paan Singh wanted and he found the system void for them to comprehend what aam aadmi has to say. The result was inevitable. A gold medallist took the reins from the guns of blood and resorted to the world of bandits in the Chambal valley.
Neither did the headlines flay when he was shot dead. But your hearts will when Dhulia’s Paan Singh Tomar dies, battling a 12 hour ordeal. He didn’t live, but worse, even his death didn’t.
Irrfan Khan delivers an astounding act as Paan Singh Tomar, no one else could have lent this precision to a character of grit and compulsive patriot. ‘7 baar record toda lekin kisi ne poocha nahin, ek goli maari aur poora desh hamari pooch raha hai’: a statement that brings the state of affairs to our deterrent footsteps.
Technically, the film sufficed. Chowta’s background score was pulsating and editing top notch. This beats Dhulia’s SBAG (though I won’t hide my fondness for Shagird), he gets the primal focus right and brilliance is written all over it.
Paan Singh Tomar, thumbs up!