Paan Singh Tomar. He plays a national level athlete who becomes a dreaded dacoit in the Chambal Valley. Tomar sprints over hurdles with breathtaking ease and eventually displays the same stubborn determination while murdering men who have robbed him of his ancestral land. Irrfan imbues Tomar with grace and a quiet dignity. So even when he meets the inevitable fate of a bandit and his body riddled with bullets, collapses into the dusty ground, there is something heroic about him.
Paan Singh Tomar is fiction inspired by true events. The story is remarkable - Tomar is an army subedaar who gets into athletics only because sportsmen get more to eat. After a race, the first thing he does is grab and devour a bunch of bananas. Tomar keeps his faith in the system and doesn't resort to violence until a lethargic, blatantly corrupt cop refuses to register his complaint and instead asks Tomar, who has travelled abroad for sporting competitions, why foreigners wear such few clothes. Hurt and angry, Tomar wonders: Desh ke liye faltu bhagey kya?
The moment has genuine pathos. As does Tomar's wounded declaration to a journalist that despite being a seven-time National Games winner, he remained anonymous, while murder and kidnapping brought him fame. But 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.
Dhulia was a casting director on Shekhar Kapur's Bandit Queen. In interviews, he has said that he first heard about Paan Singh Tomar while working on that film and decided that some day he would make a film on him. Tomar was a confrère of Phoolan Devi. Naturally then, we see some of the same motifs - the spidery curves of the ravines that seem to swallow up the dacoits, their habit of announcing their presence on loudspeakers, a massacre that leads to a police clampdown. But Paan Singh Tomar doesn't sock you in the gut like Bandit Queen did, partly because none of the supporting characters have enough flesh on them. The villains are especially non-descripts, nasty but not menacing.
Paan Singh Tomar has good intentions but not enough emotional heft.
Paan Singh Tomar was an Indian athlete and a seven time national steeplechase champion during the 1950s and 1960s. He representedIndia at the 1958 Asian Games in Tokyo, Japan. Tomar also served in the Indian Army, and it was in the army where his talent was first recognized. After premature retirement from the army he settled back in his native village. Later he gained notoriety as a Chambal Valleydacoit when he resorted to banditry after a land feud in his village.
He was killed on October 1st, 1981 in a police ambush.
Paan Singh Tomar was born in village Bhidausa (Morena, Madhya Pradesh), in Tomar, Rajput family. Hailing from a small town in Madhya Pradesh, Tomar became a seven time national steeplechase champion during the 1950s and 1960s. He created the national steeplechase record in the 1958 National Games in Cuttack with a timing of 9 minutes and 12.4 seconds. Later he broke his own record in the 1964 Open Meet in Delhi with a timing of 9 minutes and 4 seconds. His record in the 3,000 m steeplechase stood for almost a decade.
He started his career in the Indian Army with Rajputana Rifles where he was trained as a long distance runner. But it was while working as asubedar with the Bengal Engineers in Roorkee, Tomar touched his athletic peak during the period of 1958 - 1965. He represented India in the1958 Asian Games. He won consecutive national titles, eventually taking the place of Maria Ram in the national team and forming a partnership with Chuni Lal, another national athlete from the Jat Regiment.
According to Joginder Singh Saini, former chief national coach, the 6 feet high Tomar could cross water jump in a single movement, whereas other athletes stepped on the obstacle to regain balance.
In his native village Tomar was involved in a land dispute with his relatives over ancestral property for many years. Despite of his illustrous career as an athelete he was provided with little or no assistance from the police and local admisnitration. After many incidents of harassment, heated arguments and death threats from his relatives he eventually turned to banditry and become a dreaded dacoit in the Chambal Valley.
Paan sigh Tomar with his family before he turned baagi.
October 1st, 1981 Vijay Raman an IPS Officer had led a 140-member police team against the dacoit. At the end of a 14-hour operation, Tomar was dead.Some suggest it was after he fearlessly gave an interview to a local newspaper in Gwalior that the administration started to take his case seriously, having considered his candid interview in Gwalior as an act of defiance. At the time he had a reward of 10,000 rupees on his head.