Paan Singh Tomar, 2012

Paan Singh Tomar:  A colorful name like that must have a colorful story, wouldn’t you think?  Well, it sure does as we find out in this story inspired by true events, we’re told.  A tribute to the unsung heroes that national athletes are, this is a thoughtfully made movie, albeit a little rough around the edges.

Irrfan (I didn’t know until now that he’d officially dropped his last name Khan) is quite brilliant in his role in every possible aspect: he portrays the young soldier in the army who evolves into a champion athlete with as much ease as he portrays his soft side to his devoted wife at home.  Unassuming and having adopted the Madhya Pradesh dialect of Hindi with confidence, this is one guy who knows how to suck you into his character of sportsman, armyman, village man, husband, and finally outlawed dacoit.  The performance is stellar, as is the acting by the journalist who is taking down Paan Singh Tomar’s story.  Irfaan ought to be nominated for a Bollywood Oscar, in my opinion.

If there’s any letdowns at all, I’d have to say I’d like to have seen his post-dacoit days reveal something deeper tied to the loss of his wife and family.  Sure, we understand that Tomar was a victim of circumstance and was provoked to the life of an outlaw by a corrupt system– and in this we see shades of the Phoolan Devi story, but I’d have liked to see how all this has affected his psyche, and did it truly build any character?  And where is the redemption?  Is there not one at all?

For these unaddressed questions, I would take away points, but for the rest, I’d award high marks and tell you without reservation that it is a movie worth your while.


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