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PRITHIPAL SINGH - Wish the impressive Vikas Kumar had got a better writer-director visualising this proud but also a lesser-known, shocking, upsetting, shameful and scary chapter of our Indian sports history. (Review By Bobby Sing)
31 Oct, 2015 | Movie Reviews / 2015 Releases / Inspired Movies (Alphabetical) / P

Prithipal SinghBeginning with a basic question, “Why films are made on our worth-knowing heroes of the past?”……That’s because they wish to entertain as well as enlighten the young viewers with the inspiring stories of the heroes who could scale such astonishing heights in their respective deeds or fields setting new benchmarks to achieve for the coming generations.
However when one an unknown film informs you about something so important you are not even aware of (despite being a follower of the related sport), then it certainly becomes a much greater and appreciable attempt deserving a loud applause. So with a heartfelt thanks to the entire team for attempting a feature film on such a huge yet unknown chapter of our Indian sports history, I would love to give you the details of the triumphs achieved by the forgotten hero (in the later part of the review) who is strangely not remembered by even the hockey enthusiasts in our country of the present times.
But before that, reviewing it as a film, PRITHIPAL SINGH is unfortunately not any highly impressive bio-pic in terms of filmmaking, conceived with quite a casual and laidback approach by its debutant writer and director Babita Puri. Yet keeping in mind the limited budget of the project and mostly ‘first-timers’ working in its technical as well as music department, it still cannot be termed as any awful project since the makers do present it with a sensible approach making an intelligent use of the archive footage and sequences presented in Black & White, along with all average to above average performances given by the supporting cast, somehow serving the basic purpose of informing and enlightening the unaware viewers as desired.
Having said that, no doubt such a strong subject truly deserved much better execution by an experienced team in order to reach a wider audience all over the country as well as abroad like earlier seen in the case of BHAAH MILKHA BHAAG and PAAN SINGH TOMAR. In fact Prithipal Singh’s story being quite close to Paan Singh Tomar’s individual struggle for life, it surely had all the elements of making an effective, powerful bio-pic inspiring many youngsters, especially the ones playing Hockey in their school and college teams looking for a career in it.
Anyway moving ahead revealing the major or rather only merit of the film, it’s the performance of Vikas Kumar featuring in his debut movie, whom you must have seen in many TV serials playing some interesting roles (like CID). Vikas not only manages to reach the soul of his character with all the required aggression, anger and ‘no smiling’ mannerism portrayed well, but also looks like the role he is playing of a Sikh sportsman without any concerning visible hassles (and that too minus the over-famous six-pack abs or gym preparations as shown in BMB). In fact many would be surprised watching his published pictures after watching the film, as it really becomes hard to accept him in his original appearance entirely different from the character of Prithipal Singh in the film (just like Farhan Akhtar). Indeed a big compliment for the actor, who tries his best putting everything he has got in an unfortunately weak film made without any passion or fire as it seems. Here I would also like to mention the appreciable work of Vikas’s make-up artist and the cinematographer too adding a lot to his spirited performance on the screen in technical terms.
Coming to the most important section of the review, I would like to mention all the lesser known achievements of Prithipal Singh and the astonishing facts related with his professional as well as personal life that are sure going to be an eye-opener for most of the readers here in all possibilities.
1. Prithipal Singh (1932 – 1983) was an Indian hockey player nicknamed “The King of Short (Penalty) Corner” by the then hockey commentators as he was known to surely convert the corners into a goal with his exceptional skills.
2. He participated in the Olympic field hockey thrice and every time scored the highest number of goals by a single player. The Indian team won Olympic silver in Rome (1960), Gold in Tokyo (1964) and Bronze in Mexico (1968), but Prithipal had to leave or retire from the sport (post the Mexico games) after getting fed up from all the internal politics played by the official selectors against him.
3. In Rome (1960) India lost for the first time in Olympics and that too to Pakistan, settling for the Silver medal. But the team bounced back in the next games in Tokyo (1964) winning the Gold, and out of 22 goals in these games 10 were scored by Prithipal alone making another big record.
4. Even after winning the Gold in Tokyo Olympics (1964), due to the personal conflicts with the selectors, in the next Games held at Mexico the Indian team was sent with two Captains heading the boys………..Yes (unbelievably) two captains…….. only to humiliate Prithipal Singh and divide the team members negatively getting into two different groups. As a result, the team was not able to perform as earlier and could win only a Bronze medal due to its inner tussles, forcing Prithipal Singh to leave or retire from hockey forever.
Prithipal Singh5. A post-graduate in agriculture, after working for both Punjab Police and Indian Railways, Prithipal Singh became the deputy director for youth welfare in Punjab Agricultural Unviersity, Ludhiana. And it was there that he got involved in students politics leading to many serious consequences in the early 80s.
At one end, he was supposedly accused of murdering a famous student leader active in campus politics, on the other was also known to be a guiding figure for many involved in various college sports too. But with the group clashes taking a decisive turn, it came as a shock for everyone when Prithipal Singh was shot dead in broad daylight right within the campus in front of several students and officials witnessing the bullets being fired.
Shockingly none of the people watching the brutal murder came forward as witness to support Prithipal Singh identifying the known accused and the case got closed without any person booked allowing the killers to roam freely.
(However the death was not in any way related to Punjab Militancy active in the early 80s. Still it might have made the availability of arms easier for the students as it seems causing the campus bloodshed.)
6. Mentioning the awards, apart from receiving various honours from Agricultral College Ludhiana and Indian Railway Police, the first-ever Arjuna Award to a hockey player was conferred upon Prithipal Singh in 1961 by the Government of India and he was later also given the Padma Shri in 1967 for his meritorious contributions to the Indian Hockey.
Admittedly where a few readers might be already familiar with Prithipal Singh and his life history through any of their personal experiences, I was honestly not aware of the name before watching the film, despite having many friends actively following the game of hockey (as Delhi has a large number of hockey lovers, particularly living in West Delhi). So where I am extremely thankful to the makers for attempting a film on this ‘must-know sports personality of India’, I frankly also wish the impressive Vikas Kumar had got a better writer-director visualising this proud but rather unknown, shocking, upsetting, shameful and scary chapter of our Indian sports history on the silver screen.
So you should ideally watch it not as any film but as an informative document featuring the spirited Vikas Kumar, reminding us about a forgotten chapter of our proud sports history which also reveals how sports authorities have been questionably working in our country since the mid of last century.
Ratings (as a film) : 2 / 5 (with a big thanks for making us aware of the Indian “King of Short Corner” named Prithipal Singh)

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31 Oct 2015 / Comment ( 0 )
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