A national level athlete Paan Singh Tomar went on to become one of the most dreaded dacoits of Chambal Valley and director Tigmanshu Dhulia tracks this interesting journey through his film "Paan Singh Tomar", which releases Friday.
While Irrfan Khan plays the protagonist, the film sees Mahie Gill as his wife. Vipin Sharma of "Taare Zameen Par" fame also plays a pivotal role in the movie, which is being distributed by UTV Motion Pictures and UTV Spotboy Motion Pictures.
"Paan Singh Tomar" could be described an untold true story of a simple farmer, a loyal soldier and a national level athlete, who went on to become one of India's most dreaded dacoits.
Hailing from a small town in Madhya Pradesh, Tomar created the national steeplechase record in the 1958 National Games in Cuttack with a timing of nine minutes and 12.4 seconds and broke his own record in the 1964 Open Meet in Delhi with a timing of nine minutes and four seconds.
He later went on to join the Indian army with posting in Rajputana Rifles. However, a series of events forced him to pick up the gun and become an infamous dacoit in the Chambal Valley in central India.
Dhulia had to conduct intense research as very little was known about Tomar. Since the research material was limited, the director had to approach former athletes for more information. However, Irrfan admits most of them had asked for money to talk about him.
"Research was tough as there was nothing on internet about him. He had set the national record twice. Despite this, there were no records of him," said Irrfan.
"Tigmanshu and his writers went out to research about Paan Singh but people were not ready to talk about him. There are some athletes on whom films are being made, they were more interested in talking about themselves. There are some who even asked for money to talk...So research took a lot of time," he added.
The actor himself had to go through rigorous physical training for the role. Irrfan had to train himself for steeplechase under national coach Satpal Singh. He even had to learn the dialect of Madhya Pradesh, but he didn't have to learn how to use the gun as his father had already taught him that when he was young.
The film has been shot in Chambal ravines. Dhulia had to shoot the film in Chambal in 48 degrees Celsius and Irrfan reveals he could manage to shoot in the scorching heat because his heart was into the film.
The film has been screened at various international festivals like Abu Dhabi Film Festival, British Film Institute, London Film Festival and South Asian International Film Festival.
Now it is having a commercial release.