Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

March 2, 2012

A life less ordinary

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 11:04 pm

March 02, 2012

Cast: Irrfan Khan, Mahie Gill, Brijendra Kala, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Vipin Sharma

Director: Tigmanshu Dhulia

With his faultless performance as the famed athlete who turns into a feared dacoit in director Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Paan Singh Tomar, Irrfan Khan offers us a reminder of his blazing versatility.

Introduced to us as a reed-thin jawaan with an insatiable appetite for food, Tomar is quickly included in the army’s sports team, when he shows he can sprint across town to deliver a slab of ice-cream in four minutes flat before it begins to melt.

Having conquered the track with seven national wins in the most grueling athletic event, the steeplechase, Tomar has a promising career ahead that’s suddenly derailed when he must pick up a gun to protect his family’s honor, after an argument over a plot of land in his village gets messy. Tomar the sportsman transforms into Tomar the outlaw, and instead of the sports-field, his playing grounds are now the ravines of Chambal.

Narrated in flashback by Tomar himself to a nervous journalist (played by a superb Brijendra Kala), the life-story of this dreaded dacoit packs many a moving moment, and more humor than you’d imagined. There is surprising tenderness in his scenes with his wife (Mahie Gill), and sequences of joyful camaraderie between his band of thieves. There is regret too, as Tomar repeatedly reminds us – alas, few knew his name when he was a champion athlete, but he’s notorious now as an outlaw.

Directed competently by Dhulia, who’s familiar and comfortable even with the dusty terrain, Paan Singh Tomar is made with great attention to detail, and paints an honest, realistic picture of an India few of us can claim to know. Although repetitive occasionally and a tad long, the film raises two important questions: What could possibly drive a patriotic soldier into crossing over to the dark side? And although we call them sporting heroes, do we really care about our athletes once their careers are over?

I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for director Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Paan Singh Tomar. Held up by a remarkable performance from Irrfan Khan, this is a well-intentioned film that’s worth your time.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)


  1. i will definitely watch this mobie now for : irrfan khan and the reviews

    Comment by abdulla — March 2, 2012 @ 11:08 pm

  2. i will definitely watch this movie now for : irrfan khan and the reviews

    Comment by abdulla — March 2, 2012 @ 11:09 pm

  3. I want to c it

    Comment by jmsaji — March 2, 2012 @ 11:28 pm

  4. I’m yet to see Paan Singh Tomar and the only reason y is Irfan..

    Comment by Manu — March 2, 2012 @ 11:42 pm

  5. Just came back from the movie. It was nice, worth a dekho and you said it right. “…repetitive occasionally and a tad long…” and is there anything this Irrfan guy can not do ?

    Comment by PBS — March 3, 2012 @ 12:49 am

  6. seen both paan singh and london paris today ,,paan singh is 10 times better than the other

    Comment by arnav — March 3, 2012 @ 1:58 am

  7. An outstanding piece of cinema…combination of Tigmanshu Dhulia 7 Irrfan Rocks. must watch .

    Comment by Sanjay — March 3, 2012 @ 11:35 am

  8. An outstanding piece of cinema…combination of Tigmanshu Dhulia & Irrfan Rocks. must watch .

    Comment by Sanjay — March 3, 2012 @ 11:35 am

  9. Pan Singh Tomar…insightful n heart-warming in parts with subtle undercurrents of humor n pathos in equal measure…an understated yet thoroughly impressive Irrfan Khan lit up the screen….wonder how shabbily we treat our real national heroes though n do we really care????the first must-watch of 2012!!

    Comment by Dr Ruchir Mishra — March 3, 2012 @ 11:37 am

  10. Brijendra Kala was really good! Mahi Gill had very little role in the film. It was a bit long but was gripping. A must watch!

    Comment by Somya — March 3, 2012 @ 3:04 pm

  11. i will watch it only bcs irfan deserve fans…

    Comment by jiggi — March 3, 2012 @ 3:41 pm

  12. please enlighten why you have deducted 1.5 stars. without that your review and rating is i would say ‘moody’

    Comment by Tushar — March 3, 2012 @ 10:30 pm

  13. irfan khan,tigmanshu dhulia & mahie gill…..a winning combination!!!!! must watch!!!!

    Comment by neeraj — March 3, 2012 @ 11:10 pm

  14. a must watch venture..!

    Comment by amol — March 4, 2012 @ 10:54 am

  15. i agree rajeev…but would have gone with at least 4 if only for irrfan. which other actor would have even attempted this? as for now, Farhan has a challenge to raise the bar with Bhag Milkha Bhag

    Comment by aditi rao — March 5, 2012 @ 6:34 pm

  16. ‘Bolo Haan’

    Comment by sajag — March 6, 2012 @ 5:18 pm

  17. Now this one should indeed be our entry to oscors this year…..a true biopic…..at par to hollywood cinema…..must watch….

    Comment by parul — March 8, 2012 @ 1:58 am

  18. Nice review ! The last line says it all “A well intentioned film”

    Comment by Jay Jani — March 10, 2012 @ 7:49 pm

  19. Amazing Amazing movie ! Superb acting … ironically, Irrfan khan, doing such fine performances is valued less than the other so called ‘Khans’ of bollywood, much like Paan Singh Tomar.

    Comment by Kapil Malik — March 10, 2012 @ 11:37 pm

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