For Tigmanshu Dhulia’s action-adventure flick Paan Singh Tomar, actor Irrfan Khan shot with real ex-dacoits and guns in the valleys of Chambal and Roorkee (near the Rajasthan-Uttar Pradesh border). In the film, the actor plays the role of a simple farmer-turned-soldier, who becomes a celebrated athlete and then one of India’s most-dreaded dacoits.
And though the film’s unit shot under police protection, Khan insists he wasn’t scared to shoot in Chambal. “It was an experience to shoot along with reformed dacoits and hear their stories. I had to do a lot of physical and mental preparation, and practice steeplechase (an Olympian form of obstacle race) along with a national coach.” The actor also plans to show the film to this clique of former dacoits before its release on March 2.
Considering Irrfan logs on a gun in the film, did he have to learn to shoot as well? “I was besotted by guns since childhood. My father taught me how to shoot. I would put a mark on a board and practice to aim and play with air guns all the time. My dad had a couple of guns like the 12 bore, which was his favourite. Then there was a 0.22 revolver, which was very accurate. We also had a 303 rifle, like the one I am using in the film.”
Talking about his role, Irrfan says it was almost like playing four different characters — the farmer, the soldier, the athlete and the dacoit, all rolled into one.
He adds, “Despite being a national hero, there wasn’t much information available on Tomar. Tigmanshu spent a couple of years researching about him and his life. We plan to make this research material available online so that people can read about his life.”
Revealing what’s in store, Khan says, “My character goes through an emotional journey. Because of a series of events, he has to give up athletics and become the scourge of the India’s gangland, Chambal. You will also see an interesting facet of his life with his feisty wife (played by Mahie Gill).