1.5, South Asia

Paan Singh Tomar

2012 / Tigmanshu Dhulia > Bollywood continues to baffle: How can such amateur filmmaking be a critical darling? The fundamental problems of Paan Singh Tomar, a loose biopic of an army-athlete-turned-bandit, exist regardless of nationality or historical context. The barrage of constant, heavy musical cues, awkward cuts with rough pacing and obsessive use of shots that have no relevance all take away from the central story. On top of these, a solid performance by a miscast Irffan Khan is negated by shoddy character development that lacks consistent direction. (Do we ever really care about him?) And all of this is made worse by downright terrible performances by minor actors. Neither budgetary constraints nor lack of technical expertise are excuses for such a subpar production.

India has done well not to select Paan Singh Tomar as their entry into the Oscars for 2013. (Barfi! deserves it considerably more, and the quality difference between the two films are day and night.) The problem, however, persists: Bollywood moviegoers are too easily amazed by “new” cinema their country produces, even if similar cinema has been done before better elsewhere. And while being derivative isn’t necessarily a negative as long as proper due is given and quality is controlled, praising mediocrity devalues the perception of the whole industry.