Reviewing the Reviews: Paan Singh Tomar

05 Mar,2012

Paan Singh Tomar

Key Cast: Irrfan Khan, Mahie Gill, Vipin Sharma

Written And Directed By: Tigmanshu Dhulia

Produced By: Ronnie Screwvala


Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Paan Singh Tomar is one of those films that challenges the collective might of critics – both professional and the word-of-mouth kind.


The film has been winning raves, and except for skeptical trade journalists, everybody has showered the film with adjectives like “compelling” and “sublime.” The film is also a challenge for those who deride Bollywood cinema; if the so-called lovers of good cinema also don’t support a film like this, then they have no right to crib.


Times of India’s Avijit Ghosh gives it a well-deserved (for once) 3.5 stars, though “enjoyable” is not the word one would uses to describe a somewhat grim biopic. “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.”


Anupama Chopra, talking over the reviews of Hindustan Times, gives it 3 stars but doesn’t seem too impressed. “Despite the rich raw material and quality performances, Paan Singh Tomar doesn’t soar. Stretches of the screenplay are sluggish and strangely inert. More critically, I never got a sense of what Tomar’s conversion from an army man to a murderer did to his psyche. Yes, he resorts to violence only because he is provoked but subsequently, he seems oddly at ease with his criminality. Director Tigmanshu Dhulia establishes a loving relationship between Tomar and his wife, Indra, played by Mahie Gill. But Indra and his two children largely disappear from his life when he becomes an outlaw and we never really see him ache for them.”


Shubhra Gupta of the Indian Express gives it 4. “And what makes this film unforgettable is Irrfan who is, in one word, magnificent. He brings to life both the wordless strivings and joys of an athlete, and the despair of an outlaw, who has nowhere to go, but down. Of a man always, always on the run. Shubha Shetty-Saha of Mid-day liked it too. “Perhaps a tad longer and slower than it should ideally have been, but Paan Singh Tomar is unmissable. In this cricket-obsessed country, many talented men who excelled in other forms of sports have died lonely and penniless. This is Dhulia’s perfect tribute to them and perhaps a wake-up call for all of us. Now that our hockey team is going great guns, this couldn’t have come at a better time.”


Aseem Chhabria writing on is also impressed. “The settings, the language, the costumes, the supporting cast all appear authentic. Dhulia takes us on a journey inside a world that few of us know. My own knowledge of the Chambal ravines is by looking out of fast moving trains on journeys from Delhi to Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh. Seeing PST, we come out of the theater learning so much about the real India that exists far away from the unreal world of contrived plots, garish costumes, item numbers and other nonsense most of Bollywood films feed us week after week. Dhulia has one more agenda in making PST. He reminds us — as the statement at the end of the film makes it amply clear — that India has a sad track record when it comes to the treatment of its former athletes and who were real national heroes.”


Sudhish Kamath of The Hindu is all praise for Irrfan Khan. “Biopics ride on the actors portraying the main character, and Irrfan Khan as Paan Singh Tomar makes up for what he lacks in muscle and shape required of an athlete, with rustic charm and sincerity. However, he does shine as the ageing runner and the man pushed against the wall.” Karan Bali of writes, “Tigmanshu Dhulia’s rousing biopic on one of India’s greatest athletes, also an army man, who turned to the gun against an indifferent and callous system, finally settles down as an extremely watchable film let down by a relatively disappointing second half after a riveting enough first one. Yes, the yet another film falls to the interval syndrome again, which makes Paan Singh Tomar a good film that, however, falls a little short of being a great one.”


Komal Nahata, looking at it from the trade point of view, gives it 1 and writes, “On the whole, Paan Singh Tomar does not have the commercial ingredients to score at the box-office. Had the second half been more weighty, it could have worked reasonably well but with the post-interval portion looking like a routine dacoit drama, that won’t be possible.” Now it’s over to the audience-will they stand by good cinema or let Bollywood potboilers insult their intelligence week after week?


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