Tuesday, June 5, 2012

My favorite Hindi-language running movie

The real Paan Singh Tomar
OK, so Paan Singh Tomar is the only Hindi-language running movie I've ever seen.  Could it be the only Hindi-language movie ever made about a runner?  I don't know. 

The titular runner, Paan Singh Tomar, didn't run competitively until he joined the army, and then only because of his voracious appetite.  Not satisfied with the rations in the regular army, he agreed to run for the army sports division so he could have more to eat.  It was an inauspicious way to start an athletic career, but he made the most of it winning the 3000 meter steeplechase in the Indian National Games 7 consecutive years.  He didn't fare well at the Tokyo Asian Games.  His coach gave him a pair of spikes just before the race, but, never having run in spikes before, he didn't run well.  Part way through the race, he pulled them off, finishing barefoot.

Irrfan Khan as Singh Tomar
Unfortunately, Singh Tomar's fame and success didn't exempt him from being victimized in a land dispute with some relatives.  As a result of the dispute, which turned into a blood feud of sorts, he ended up becoming a fugitive and getting gunned down by the police.  Tragic.

This is the first Indian movie I've seen that didn't have big song-and-dance numbers.  It would have been out of character for the story, but that hasn't stopped Bollywood before!  As seems to be the case with many Bollywood products, the cinematic quality is like a mediocre American TV show, and the acting, though hard to judge, being in a language I don't understand, seems a bit wooden.  It is a good story, though.

The running scenes are pretty entertaining.  Singh Tomar had a natural talent for running, leaving the field behind with ease.  If he had more coaching and support in his early years, and more recognition and esteem in his later years (to keep him out of trouble), he probably could have had more success than he had and would be a running legend today, even outside of his native India.

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