Paan Singh Tomar

This is a Bollywood movie worth watching – such movies only come once in a long while from Bollywood !

Paan Singh Tomar (PST, for short) is a wonderful movie which shows the real India, far removed from the unreal world of Bollywood’s usual masala movies which hardly make much sense. The heart of the large State of Madhya Pradesh (MP) is similar to most parts of rural India. It is under-developed, dacoit-infested, and land-driven, with feudal hierarchy ruling the villages.

How far away can you get from Mumbai ? This is one such place – the famed Chambal Valley of MP.

Irrfan Khan is a great actor. Unfortunately, he is the only good actor in this movie, when things are happening in the movie, the only impact that you get is from the acting prowess of Irrfan. The other actors merge with the movie and do not make a significant impact – may be this is by design, as these other characters actually appear to be the real players in the drama, rather than being just actors.

The transition from army life to being a husband in day-to-day life to becoming a rebel has been woven so nicely that one tends to forget that time is passing by. Irrfan has done such an outstanding job of character performance in all these 3 roles and it appears to be actually an effortless delivery ! PST is a deep movie which shows the intricacies of rural livelihood – even within the same extended family rivalry could exist in such a serious manner that it could lead to scavenging of land and murders.

Unfortunately, the later part of the movie when PST is acting out in his dacoit role does not show the impact that he causes on his family. One is not able to see how his wife would have reacted to his murderous character and the hardening of his psyche in which he comes out nonchalant while eliminating villagers who have betrayed him. Such cruelty where the law has been taken into his hands seems fit in the circumstances as the police force is colluding with his treacherous relatives and villagers disposed against PST.

The irony of the story is that PST’s son is training in the army – PST wanted his son to go into the army (probably for the food as that was one reason why he went into the army, as shown in the movie) and not get caught in the cross-fire between scheming relatives. It is not possible to see in his son’s face the impact that PST has caused by turning into a dacoit – of course he says that the mom is worried !

Overall, though I was not happy with the heroic death of PST at the hands of the corrupt police force, I concluded that PST is a very good movie worth watching. Surprisingly, it was not a violent movie – I did expect a lot of mindless violence. It is a thoughtful and well-directed movie and all kudos to Mr Tigmanshu Dhulia, the director of the movie, and Irrfan Khan for his outstanding performance.


Vijay Srinivasan
21st April 2012


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