“Having watched an early cut during its world premiere in 2010 and coming out largely unimpressed, I almost gave this one a miss. Until I heard the film had been recut (Aarti Bajaj) and the score changed. I was still not sure how much it had changed because the version I watched back then was largely forgettable with a terribly manipulative background score that made you cringe. I am glad I did re-watch it because it seemed
a lot more convincing this time around.
I was able to find what I missed back then. The heart of a man who believes he has been wronged by the State and strikes back. The angst of a man who hates the system for ignoring his prize-winning efforts for the country but now celebrated for his notoriety. The fate he had brought upon himself purely as a form of protest.
Biopics ride on the actors portraying the main character, and Irrfan Khan as Paan Singh Tomar makes up for what he lacks in muscle and shape required of an athlete, with rustic charm and sincerity. However, he
does shine as the ageing runner and the man pushed against the wall.
Initially, we understand his rage against the system and his decision to steal from the rich and protect the poor. Like the journalist interviewing him (Brijendra Kala), we are happy to hear the story from the feared man himself, his reasoning and point of view… But only till he admits to gunning down nine unarmed villagers and insists they deserved to die.
This is the point where we stop relating to him but the director continues to tell us the story from Tomar’s perspective. He continues to glorify the man who is becoming more and more trigger-happy and makes him out to be a hero who is just completing the race, the rebel who refuses to”
“surrender to the system.”