The release of the movie 'Paan Singh Tomar' has brought into limelight the forgotten saga of a sportsman legend turning into a dreaded dacoit in the 1980's.The movie is doing good business and word of mouth publicity is helping it reach a larger audience. Also the lead role is played by one of India's finest actors,Irrfan Khan.
Who was Paan Singh Tomar and why did he become a dacoit after a spectacular sporting career?
Paan Singh was born in 1932 in a poor family in Bhidosa village of Morena district of Madhya Pradesh. He joined the Indian Army as a recruit in1949 . He was 6'4" tall and well built. He soon attracted attention of his superiors to his athletic skills. It is intersesting to note that he was initially not interested in sports but joins the sports division, because there is no restriction in the amount of food he can consume. His coach advises him to concentrate on mastering the 3000 meters steeplechase race. Soon he is participating in the Indain National Games and becomes a champion for seven years in a row, winning the gold medal each time.He represents India in the 1958 Asian Games in Tokyo. His national record held for a decade. In 1967 he participates in the International Military Games and wins the gold in the steeplechase event.
While still in the army, his elder brother Matadin informs him of his lands being taken away by Bhanwar Singh a relative of theirs. Paan Singh retires from the army in 1972. He tries to settle the dipute with Bhanwar Singh, but is unsuccessful. He also tries to take help of the Collector and the local police but they dont help. In the meantime Bhanwar Singh attacks and beats up his son, who is also in the army. Bhanwar Singh and his henchmen also attack Paan Singh and his family. In this fight while he and
Once while staying in a village,the sarpanch informs the police, The police attack them and his elder brother is killed, while others escape. Paan Singh takes his revenge by killing the sarpanch and 8 others. He is persuaded by his family and his army days coach to surrender, which he refuses to do. He points to the irony that when he was famous no one helped him and now when he is down they want him to surrender.The govt. announces a reward of Rs 1000/- on his head.
In 1981, while he enters the village of Ratiyan ka Pura, a police informer contacts the police. The police lay a trap and in the ensuing gun battle Paan Singh is killed. Thus comes to an end the gory saga of Paan Singh Tomar the sportsman turned dacoit.
Even as the SP who killed him, is receiving accolades for his act, he wonders about our justice delivery mechanism, that forces a disciplined soldier, to take the law into his own hands, to seek justice.
Indeed a story worth hearing and the movie 'Paan singh Tomar' worth watching.