Budhia Singh Born To Run cast: Manoj Bajpayee, Mayur Patole, Tillotama Shome
Budhia Singh Born To Run director: Soumendra Padhi
Can a movie change a life? After watching Budhia Singh: Born To Run, you wish for a miracle. Or anything that can help a young prodigy unlock his enormous potential.
At the age of four, Budhia ran the 65 km between Bhubaneshwar to Puri in a little over seven hours, and was featured in the Limca Book of World Records as the ‘youngest marathon runner in the world’. His feat, amazing for someone so young and frail, was lapped up by the media, and he began being hailed as Odisha’s pride. Overnight, he became a star; so did his controversial coach Biranchi Das, who rescued him, some said, from one kind of exploitation only to exploit him for his (Biranchi’s) own glory.
As is usually the case with films which state that they are ‘inspired by’ true events, instead of calling themselves bio pics, we are left wondering how much is fact and how much fiction. Some thorny things are bravely introduced and then left hanging: there is a build-up, for example, to a potential dope test scandal, but the result of Budhia’s test is left hazy (did it even happen?); do Biranchi and his wife have other means of income (they are shown collecting money from a few establishments in one throwaway scene; in the rest, they run a judo school cum orphanage); does Biranchi really think that depriving such a little boy of water in such searing heat during such a long race is a good idea or is he just being harsh and cruel (overtly concerned characters are shown asking these questions); does he do this because he really wants the boy to proudly participate in the 2016 Olympics (the date is mentioned loud and clear a couple of times) or are his efforts geared towards gaining personal publicity? Does the boy’s mother (Shome) understand the gravity of ‘selling’ her little boy to a travelling salesman, or is she truly confused and naïve? Are those politicians who can’t stand Biranchi’s guts as venal as they are made out, or have they been outlined too much?
But despite these hanging threads, and the questions that go unanswered, there’s enough zest in the warp and weft of the film, to keep us engaged. It has a welcome sense of pace and place with the use of authentic-sounding Oriya lines being kept at a minimum which is much better than everyone fumbling over the accent. The sequences with the coach and the boy are done well, as are the ones which feature the kids in the orphanage, displaying a nice mix of banter and discipline. Fittingly, the sport is kept at the centre of the narrative – both the boy and his coach are seen running, panting, stopping, resuming, practicing — the hard, punishing stuff that goes into the making of marathon men.
The lead performances are spot on. Bajpayee as Biranchi is stellar, playing him with just the right mixture of truculence and affection. And fittingly again, the real star of the movie is Budhia, played by Mayur Patole without an ounce of artifice: he runs with his entire being, with an eye on the finishing line.
The ‘real’ Budhia’s career has been stuck in bureaucratic sloth and carelessness. Can the film shine a spotlight on his plight and pull him back on track for the long haul?
Watch | Budhia Singh Born To Run trailer
That would be a real gift to the boy, who, as the tagline of the film says, was born to run.
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