Yes, it is great.
The director kind of continues from where must have left of during his days on the ‘Bandit Queen’ crew. The vistas of Chambal ki ghati come out very similar to how it showed up in the older film.
Irrfan again packs a punch in his portrayal of a common man, though in this case, this common man is not just anybody of the street.
A son of chambal, a military man, who joins the military sports team just because there is no limit on the food ration for ‘sports people’. He’s not scared to say the right thing, and actually snubs his superiors calling them good-for-nothing. Punished and sent to the Military Physical Training facility, he gives up his pet event, the 5000 mts race 2 months before a Defense sports meet, because he empathizes with his coach. He takes up Steeplechase instead, a event he had never heard of before in his life. And wins the event in the 13th National Games, setting a national record. Cut to the Asian games, where he is handed spikes moments before the event, that he takes off halfway through his first lap, and eventually loses the race. His heroics though win him adulation and fans, one of whom even gets their picture taken. When he is not allowed to join his batallion during the 65 war, he tell his superior ‘take away all my awards and let me go to war’, such is his dedication to protecting the nation, his Dharti Maa. He convers this rage to efforts, and wins the gold in the International Defense Sports meet, competing with kids half his age. But this is just as long as the good times go.
A family feud for (what else but) land makes him quit his Military job, and return to become a agriculturalist in his village. But life in the Bihaarr is not peaceful, as the family feud takes ugly turns, and after pleading help from the District Collector and the cops, and see his crops cut up, his son beaten up, and his mother eaten to death, Subedaar Paan Singh decides to take up the gun. As he reminds us many a times in the movie, “Bihaarr me sirf Baagi hote hai” and “Baagi koi khud se nahi banta”. He builds a gang, mostly members of his own extended family, raises money by kidnapping, trains his crew, and kills his enemies. Emotions run high in many of the scenes, and it is in these scenes, like the once in which Paan Singh kills his elder cousin, that we see the tormented man he has become. As the movie ended it left me with a lot of thoughts.
When does one cross the line between sanity and insanity? Something that a person wouldn’t even imagine ever in his life suddenly becomes his choice for way of life.
How a person goes from not caring a bit about a sport to a world class sportsman to a gun carrying bandit, hiding the angst of never fighting for his country and the bitterness of leaving a sport behind that gave him a name.
What’s right? What’s wrong? Who defines? Do the decisions stand the test of time?
But I digress.
The film is brilliant in its making. There are small details that are taken care of. The usage of music is great. And the dialogues, wow the dialogues. “Beehad mein to baaghi rehte hain, Parliament mein daaku.“
Go watch this film to see a meaningful hindi film in a long time.