Utpal Borpujari

October 30, 2008

Star athlete-turned-Chambal dacoit’s life to come alive on celluloid

By Utpal Borpujari

For over a decade a blazed the tracks, and then his blazing guns spell terror in the Chambal area.

Now, international athlete-turned-dacoit Pan Singh Tomar’s life story is all set to be recreated on celluloid, with its director saying the film will be an effort to highlight the neglect sportspersons have faced in India over the years.

To be shot extensively in the Chambal ravines, the theatre of action for Tomar till he was shot dead by police, the film, simply titled Pan Singh Tomar, will have Irrfan Khan playing the title role.

“Tomar’s story is symbolic of how we as a nation treat our sportspersons,” director Tiggmanshu Dhulia, who got to know about the Army man-turned-dacoit’s life story while working as casting director for Shekhar Kapoor’s Bandit Queen, told Sakaal Times.

“At least now, because of television, our Olympic medallists are getting known, but there was a time when people like him, despite having represented India in the Asian Games, were completely neglected,” he says. “But the plight of many of our past sports stars is pathetic, and many of them are even begging on the streets for survival.”

The shoot for the UTV Spotboy production will start at Roorkee near Hardwar from November 20. “I am shooting at the Army’s Bengal Engineering Group (BEG) unit there, because that was where Tomar was posted during his heydey as an athlete,” says Dhulia, who has made films like Hasil, Charas and under-production Shagird apart from a number of TV serials.

Tomar was the national steeplechase champion for over a decade starting from the late 1950s after trying his hand at 5,000-metre running. He represented India in the 1958 Tokyo Asiad.

After he retired from the Army and returned to his village in the Chambal area in Madhya Pradesh. There, finding that a distant relative of his had usurped his family land, he went to the police, but was refused any help despite telling them that he was an international athlete and an ex-Army man. Frustrated, he tunred a “Baghi” (rebel) took to the infamous ravines of Chambal.

Irrfan Khan, to prepare for the role, is being trained by professional coaches so that he looks like a genuine athlete with a sinewy body.

 

(An abridged version was carried in Sakaal Times, www.sakaaltimes.com, 29-10-2008)

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