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.