Cast: Mayur Patole, Manoj Bajpayee, Gajraj Rao, Shruti Marathe, Tillotama Shome
Director: Soumendra Padhi
Judo coach and orphanage owner Biranchi Das gets to know about one of the inmates — a five-year-old Budhia Singh — swearing and misbehaving with other kids one day, and to teach him a lesson, makes him run the entire length of the judo training hall. Das being extremely busy, goes about his routine work and forgets about Budhia’s punishment until his wife informs him after five hours. He panics and takes him to a hospital for a medical check-up only to be told that the wonder boy’s condition was in perfect health. He then begins to train Budhia to run marathons methodically. This scene encapsulates the essence of Budhia’s sheer vigour and marks the beginning of his becoming a world-class sportsperson at such a tender age. Subsequently, he finds a place in the Limca Book of Records as the youngest marathon runner.
Inspired by a true story, Budhia Singh: Born to Run tells the remarkable journey of this legendary Bhubaneswar-born Budhia Singh, who made history when he ran from Bhubaneswar to Puri — a distance of 65 km, in seven hours and two minutes, that too in 50° Centigrade. Focusing primarily on the wonder kid’s outstanding talent and not wasting much screen time on unnecessary details, the biopic is as much a story of true grit, courage, determination and tolerance, as much it is an inspiring drama about one man’s fight to spot exceptional talent in a child and make all-out efforts towards making the child a living legend.
Being poor, Budhia (Mayur Patole) gets sold to a travelling salesman for a meagre Rs 800 by his mother Sukanti (Tillotama Shome). When the child gets mistreated, she seeks Biranchi’s (Manoj Bajpayee) help, who buys him back and brings him to his orphanage. Biranchi spots Budhia’s unique stamina and begins to train him to run marathons. Soon the child catches media attention, his matchless strength grabs headlines and becomes everyone’s darling, and is touted to be India’s next hero. Quite naturally, his celebrity-status gets him many admirers, but it also begins to ruffle a few people, including the child development minister, who believes that a child is getting “exploited” for monetary gains by the coach. Many wily administrative officials and even ministers too begin to fear Biranchi’s fast gaining popularity as the do-gooder in the state and resent his international media attention that he earns as a “strict no-nonsense” coach.
Their immediate concern is that they would lose importance in their constituency and thus do anything to stall both Biranchi’s and Budhia’s growing popularity. Both the mentor and child are also promised financial gains, much to the envy of many. The storyline charts the journey of Budhia, but also mirrors corrupt practices that scuttle promising talent from coming up in our country; it brings to the fore the ugly and shameful machinations that politicians and other powers-that-be resort to. Is it anything surprising then to know that even after 10 years, the little boy continues to live in the slums of Bhubaneswar?
First-time director Soumendra Padhi’s film traces the meteoric rise of Budhia and has everyone glued to the proceedings, which seldom slacken. Manoj Bajpayee plays coach Biranchi Das with the sincerity that such a character demands. But it is Mayur Patole, who is, clearly, a scene-stealer here — so endearingly unselfconscious he is that one forgets while watching him that he is only a character in a film. Though the film conforms to the rules of sports movies quite often, and has its share of embellishments and formulaic tangents too, it never succumbs to sports-movie formulas, rather, it manages to transcend the genre, only because it sticks to honestly telling a true story — so narratively compelling and enthralling the film is. It’s a film that has lots of heart… Go watch it!
The writer is a film critic and has been reviewing films for over 15 years. He also writes on music, art and culture, and other human interest stories....