Paan Singh Tomar – Dear Tigmanshu, welcome back!

Posted: March 3, 2012 by moifightclub in bollywood, cinema, film review, Movie Recco, movie reviews, reviews
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

We are desperate for comebacks. And we are quick to dismiss too. All it takes is just a status update or 140 characters.

When Tigamanshu Dhulia’s last film, Sahib Biwi Aur Gangster released, it was the usual hype on the social networking platforms. As if friends, family and colleagues were dying to put that “comeback” tag on him. The film had it’s charm but it was nowhere close to what it was made out to be. The usual suspects tried the same with Ramu and his Not A Love Story. To put it mildly, that was unadulterated garbage in every way.

But, this is what a comeback looks like – Paan Singh Tomar. Ironic that the producers (UTV) had to sell the film as “from the director of Sahib Biwi Aur Gangster”. May be it wouldn’t have got a theatrical release even if it wasn’t for SBAG’s success. The film has been ready for quite sometime (about two years). They sent it to few desi festivals in USA where the general feedback was “Irrfan is good, film is bad”. News started doing the rounds that UTV was planning to dump it on tv along with some half a dozen other films. Then SBAG happened. Some strings were pulled, a release date was quickly announced and without much pubilcity or promotions, the film was released.

Those who have seen both the versions of the film, they said that music has surely been changed. But how much can just the “background music” change the film? No clue, not sure.

I went to see the film FDFS. Just because of that actor called Irrfan Khan. Or just Irrfan. Seems he has dropped his surname. Good, we have too many of them in this industry anyway. When i entered the auditorium, it felt like it was going to be a private screening only for me – the luxury that makers provide to few critics to give a bloated sense of being important and score some brownie points. Slowly some dozen people turned up including a director whose film has recently released.

The film opens with Brijendra Kala, an actor who is a delight to watch – the desi Bill Murray who knows his deadpan too well. As Irrfan narrates his story to Kala, it goes into flashback and we get to see the story of Paan Singh Tomar. I have been often told that narrating a story to a character to get into flashback is the worst device in a film. But with two terrific actors in the frame, they make everything mundane look so interesting. There are just counted few scenes between the two, but that thing called chemistry, well, it’s found in strange places between stranger people.

I have always felt that the mark of a good director is in the casting of those actors who have just one or two lines to deliver. You go to watch a film because of the lead actors but you come back home with those “character actors” who steal the show. This is where Paan Singh Tomar scores again. Even Zakir Hussain and Mahie Gill are so impressive in such small roles. Though it seems Nawazuddin had more to do in the film and it was edited out later on.

Paan Singh Tomar is the Tigamanshu we knew, the one we wanted to see again after Haasil. The director who could take us to a new place, away from bollywood where he knows the terrain, its politics and dialect well. Written by Sanjay Chouhan with dialogues by Dhulia, it captures the sound and soul of that barren land with a dose of black humour – a rarity in this industry. So when i saw his other film Shagird, i could not believe it was the same director. From one extreme to other – how could one go so far? As a screenwriter who saw the film with us  said, this is Race for intellectuals.

Welcome back, Tigmanshu. It’s been long.

And Irrfan? Well, he can do anything. Just anything. No wonder he is the only Khan they know in the west. It’s our bad luck that he is born in a country and at a time when we are obsessed with the weekend numbers and 100-crore mark, and we don’t make films that can’t justify his talent. Forget films, we don’t even dare to put him on magazine covers. I hope and pray that in your next birth you get a better place which knows how to respect talent.

The actor doesn’t need lines, his glances pack a punch. In the scene where he comes to meet his son and asks him not to touch him, when his son leaves and he looks around, that glance stays with you long after you have left the theater. Much like that awkward hug with his son’s girlfriend in one of my favourite films of all time, Namesake. He is about to hug her, she is about to kiss, and then that slight bend, slow movement and a strange look on his face. He can play young, can play old and even a father of a young man in the same film. He can run and romance with equal ease.

Only weird thing about the film is that it leaves you with a strange vacuous feeling – Not sure how you react to the character in the end. It keeps you engaged through the film but doesn’t hit the spot in the end which you desperately want it to.The emotional hook? Or may be just a bit of empathy.

As for Paan Singh Tomar, in other part of the world the most famous runner’s mom told him that life was like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get. This side, we are sure about one thing – there’s no box, there are no chocolates and life is just a race which you must complete.

  1. aryan shetty says:

    Very nice… It feels so great to read something like this… i wished irfan khan or the maker or this film could read it.. It would mean so much to them; more thn an award i guess.. Kudos to whole team of fightclub.. For always being a source of support for good great talent… More power 2ur highly skilled blog.

  2. AMH says:

    “I hope and pray that you don’t born in this country again.”

    That just sounds wrong.

    Good to see that Mr. Dhulia is back! Even I heard from insiders that this film was being shelved by UTV forever since the reviews weren’t good. I think Rajeev Khandelwal’s `Peter gaya kaam se’ is facing the same fate right now. I wonder which reviewers did UTV consult.

  3. filamkhor says:

    Reblogged this on filamkhor.

  4. Gyandeep says:

    Wow, I mean just wow!

    Brilliant article. Gave me gooseflesh. Was going to watch the film anyway, just because of Irrfan and Dhulia. But after reading this article, I so want to see this film Yesterday.


  5. Brilliant article… As they say “jitna khoobsurat Nazaara, utna hi khoobsurat andaaz-e-bayaan”….
    P.s.- I just wonder at times why don’t you review movie regularly… You’re views and understanding of cinema is surely way better than those “wanna-be” critics we have to do with right now.

  6. arunprakash says:

    Great Review….watched it earlier today to a packed theater….and people clapped in a few scenes too.
    Everything I’ve watched in the recent past pales in front of PST.

    The movie’s been very well cut, esp the first half. And this was a movie meant for desi audiences, not International festivals.

  7. Amit says:

    Welcome back TG, indeed! and boy, what a comeback. I come from that part of UP and I can vouch for the authentic characters and setting shown in the movie. Awesome! Pity, I saw it with only 10% filled auditorium on a saturday evening. But I’m sure it would find its audience in times to come and recieve its due just like Hassil did. And come on guys, whats this talk about second half being dud. Some of the best moments were in the second half – Irfan before his brother was killed, retirement scene, irfan going to meet his son and coach, etc. I can go on and on..

  8. D.A. says:

    “Sahib was unadulterated garbage in every way” ….really ?! You kinda lost me after that.

    Ra One, BodyGuard, Ready etc… are the kind of garbage you refer here my friend ….Sahib if not a classic, was a decent movie had power dialogs written by the same guy whom u praise in this article.

    I just hope we stop using needless hyperbole’s in a bid to distinguish our review from the others on the internet. Just because your review’s crux is a comeback dont meant that you diss the guy’s last movie without any basis to make your work sound better.

  9. moifightclub says:

    Dude, you sure you read the post? Let me put it again. Try again.

    So it goes like “When Tigamanshu Dhulia’s last film, Sahib Biwi Aur Gangster released, it was the usual hype on the social networking platforms. As if friends, family and colleagues were dying to put that “comeback” tag on him. The film had it’s charm but it was nowhere close to what it was made out to be. The usual suspects tried the same with Ramu and his Not A Love Story. To put it mildly, that was unadulterated garbage in every way.”

    Now, that unadulterated garbage is for Ramu’s NALS. You got it? Or still confused?
    For SBAG, i wrote “The film had it’s charm but it was nowhere close to what it was made out to be.”

  10. Prasun Banerjee says:

    Saturday night in E square pune … packed house … (was about to write Housefull but then nowadays that word gives me the creeps) … loved the first half … ok with 2nd half … other than irffan and brijendra kala , loved the cop ( steeple chase … chase …) … actually cant get over him from saheb biwi … specially his scenes with genda singh who was my favourite character in sbag !!!

  11. assman says:

    It could have been shot better. Everything else is really good. Tigmanshu nailed it with dialogues, nuances, and realistic locations. Great acting by Irfan, Mahie, and everybody. Was that Kumud Mishra, the cop who refuses to help?

    “Hey wardi humein chaama karo!” scene was brilliant.

  12. kennydb says:

    Well written, mfc! Agree with you on pretty much everything

  13. Fatema says:

    After ages a deserving film, deserving actor, deserving director and most importantly a deserving vision is getting its day in the sun. SMACK! Eye-balls, critical praise and hopefully money and maybe awards too (they might not mean much but do make a diff don’t they?), finally all the right things are happening for the right film and for the right reasons. Loving it.

    And fightclub yeah totally agree on the emotional connect thing (I know kahi kuchh shrishti mein gadbad hain ke we are agreeing). Kinda felt ke so where is this leading…? what was the point…? the first half was so strongly leading ‘somewhere’ the second half just didn’t live upto it until we forced ourselves to go all existential. I suppose it must have been all that editing in post that made it like that. Many a times it was clearly evident that the film looked like it cos of the edit and wasn’t written that way…second half surely was one of the ‘victims’…

  14. RDX says:

    wahhh MFC decently explained to D.A… Someone else would’v abused him pasting the lines again. Good job man.

  15. Piyush says:

    Saw this one yesterday evening, and simply loved it. It was riveting. But I would have liked the film to end when the interview ends. Somehow the flashback followed by the subsequent continuation just did not feel very right.

    About the ‘vacuous feeling’ you mentioned, and the lack of empathy- yes, even I feel the same. Paan Singh Tomar became a baaghi because of his helplessness and because of his thirst for vengeance. But his transition to someone who kidnaps for money was not very clearly brought out in the film. Of course it is a biopic and stays true to the actual scene of events. But someone in the latter parts of the film he came across more as a dacait than a baaghi. That was the disconnect for me.

    Otherwise a splendid effort, and my what a performance by Irrfan. The scene when he goes back to the village and attacks Bhanwar Singh. Phenomenal. Answer to main upar aake bhi loonga!

  16. Sadho says:

    Brilliant review. I saw the movie and fell in love with it, with Dhulia, with Irrfan and everything else that happens in it. It’s one of the rare movies to come out from bollywood.

  17. hardik mehta says:

    what struck me is UTV sitting and hatching on the bloody film!! Were they taking the festivals’ reviews seriously? 🙂
    There is a thing about festivals that i think is very peculiar – they like Indian films that have Indian stories, but stories told with a foreign-style treatment, coz thats what appeals to them or to their festival. Paan Singh tomar, not just the visual language but the overall scenario, from visual to verbal language was very very Indian (right from shot taking to dialogues to the humor of sending the kids away to those rare idea of melting the icecream before it reaches) and that is what made the film brilliant and thankfully we all suddenly discovered when it came to us on a certain good Friday. If they would go by what a certain Festivalwala thinks or what a bollywood filmwala distributor thinks then toh ho gaya…and there is an amazing urgent need for such language to be developed (its already there bas isi language mein hamari filmein banti rahein..) – because as PST proves there is an audience waiting. The word of mouth on this film has been at an all time high. I went on a weekday and the cinemax, versova was 75% occupied.

  18. yayaver says:

    Searched whole Bhubaneshwar today.. not screened in a single theater even for night show. I don’t want to see this movie by torrents 😦

  19. shivacarnage says:

    Haven’t seen the movie yet…but you have written so well…Cheers…!!

  20. prasad says:

    watched it today…a brilliant film and a nice article.

    And I couldn’t have put it in a better way :

    “And Irrfan? Well, he can do anything. Just anything. No wonder he is the only Khan they know in the west. It’s our bad luck that he is born in a country and at a time when we are obsessed with the weekend numbers and 100-crore mark, and we don’t make films that can’t justify his talent.”

    Just one correction there… it should be ” we don’t make films that can justify his talent” ..
    Am I correct?

  21. @Rohwit says:

    Not sure why everyone pointed out that the character left them confused. Even PST knew he cannot take a step back….it’s the maxim in those areas…Enemies will die but animosity won’t.

    He had to run because as you mentioned, life was a race for him and he just had to keep running.

    Still overwhelmed by the film..

    Will be watched again.

    What a film and what a post!

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