7 time steeplechase National Champion, sole representation of the country in 1958 Tokyo Asian games and the winner in 1967 International Defence Meet.

Paan Singh who?? I am sorry but pages of history don’t speak and we by our own confessions, have the inimitable ability to ignore, forget and most importantly, never augment the commencement of myriad future. Alas, we never realised when and how a national champion was gutted while the nation was with its oblivious self.

A sensitive and almost sunk biopic about one of our non celebrated champions, ‘Paan Singh Tomar’ is arguably, Tigmanshu’s most potent work. Extracted from true events, it has the stamp of addictive filmmaking. I was thrilled to watch the protagonist grow from the tracks to his traumatic lull back home and his stint with the Army that looked formidable, yet appeared off the hook. He was a Phoenix with ashes of gold, and yet, his perennial necessity was survival amongst the gory gods soaked in a culture of savage minds.

It’s a pity to watch our governments and administration turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to our heroes (though, it was never acknowledged) and we forget that glory is probably the most dangerous visitor. We know when it comes, but it leaves without a trace. But what it leaves behind is probably man’s most despicable assets. Rest, as they say, ceases to exist. For Paan Singh Tomar, the latter never bestowed upon him and he wasn’t the punter to sail without hamstrings. Local police and Army failed to punch the holes Paan Singh wanted and he found the system void for them to comprehend what aam aadmi has to say. The result was inevitable. A gold medallist took the reins from the guns of blood and resorted to the world of bandits in the Chambal valley.

Neither did the headlines flay when he was shot dead. But your hearts will when Dhulia’s Paan Singh Tomar dies, battling a 12 hour ordeal. He didn’t live, but worse, even his death didn’t.

Irrfan Khan delivers an astounding act as Paan Singh Tomar, no one else could have lent this precision to a character of grit and compulsive patriot. ‘7 baar record toda lekin kisi ne poocha nahin, ek goli maari aur poora desh hamari pooch raha hai’: a statement that brings the state of affairs to our deterrent footsteps.

Technically, the film sufficed. Chowta’s background score was pulsating and editing top notch. This beats Dhulia’s SBAG (though I won’t hide my fondness for Shagird), he gets the primal focus right and brilliance is written all over it.

Paan Singh Tomar, thumbs up!

There are filmmaker’s who make films. And then, we have filmmakers who churn epics. They resonate and come back to us with a trace of fervour. ‘Arth’ is such a product of pandemonium class.

Mahesh Bhatt ranks amongst the country’s finest minds and this probably was his most honest trade. Human relationships have always intrigued me, and I continue to mend my ways to attempt not to meander desires. ‘Arth’ flashes human paranoid in every frame of life. Inder, Pooja, Kavita, Raj – they are all etched out of our pedestrian lives. Insane, talented, desirable, greedy, dreams, obsession. The characters are immersed in such juggernaut that they fail to miss you and you are glued with your gums stuck to the walls. The floundering means of Inder, Pooja’s desperation to possess a family that refrains to let hold and Kavita’s psychotic bliss take you to a fold of manned pandora that refuses to bleach naked carousels.

Few scenes stand out. ‘main keh raha hoon, keh raha hoon, keh raha hoon’ fused humane madness, Pooja’s proverbial outburst in the party where she spots Inder & Kavita together and Kavita’s oscillating moods define masquerading battles within. Raj’s acceptance of Pooja’s refusal establishes the fact that people with such beautiful feelings do live and breathe amongst us.

Pravin Bhatt is excellent with his camera, editing flays yet restrained and the script palanquins the stamp of vulnerable wannabes. ‘Tum itna jo muskura rahe ho’ is my forte and the late Jagjit Singh’s soulful rendition renames melancholy. Background score rests beneath as the writer creates his own playground of fatal tombs.

The performances: What can I say? It features some of the finest this country has ever seen. Khulbhushan Kharbanda plays Inder like a man possessed. If this generation has to know what KK could do as an actor, then ‘Arth’ is your destination. Shabana Azmi as Pooja is astounding. Raj Kiran as Raj sinks and does so with aplomb. Finally, my toast. Smita Patil delivers a stunner. At an age when women centric roles were orthodox and venturing out of the commercial territory was almost impossible, Smita lived Kavita in every frame. The swinging mantra of her loneliness, her insecurity to retain a man in her arms and the insatiable wants of a marauding woman – Smita had it all. Hats off!

An autobiographical monument, ‘Arth’ became a path breaking phantom. 31 years since, and Mahesh Bhatt’s mangled human yore oozes brilliance.