A five-year-old boy in an oversized t-shirt is running. Drenched in sweat, his t-shirt sticks to his body. Scorching heat, loud cheering, and music. The boy keeps running. For the people watching, a miracle is unfolding in front of them. For the boy, it’s all just noise. His vision is so blurry that the people around have been reduced to dots. He doesn’t understand the loud cheers, doesn’t care about the celebrations; he runs.
7 hours and 2 minutes later, he finally collapses. Everybody watches. The media has a field day. The netas look displeased. So do the businessmen who had invested in his talent. Perhaps they should have given him the water he asked for hours ago.
The story of Budhia Singh – Born To Run is not just about a talented boy. It’s about a boy who rose to fame and fell hard, months before his sixth birthday. The story, inspired by the real ‘Wonder Boy of India’, is about Budhia Singh (Mayur Patole), a boy who runs. Whether he’s forced to run or wants to run – the line is left blurred. Budhia’s story is also about the coach behind the boy’s fame. How chancing upon the ‘Wonder Boy’ gave him validation, even if at the end everything came crashing down.
After being sold for Rs. 850, Budhia Singh lives with a man who feeds him punches and slaps instead of actual food. Budhia is rescued by Biranchi Das (Manoj Bajpayi), a local judo master and a general do-gooder in the locality. On the one hand, he adopts orphaned children. On the other, he enjoys hobnobbing with corrupt politicians. He’s not entirely bad; he just knows what it takes to be important in a poor town. He and wife Gita (Shruti Marathe) take care of 22 children. They feed and shelter the kids, and teach them judo. Das is well-liked because of this.
All that changes when he takes Budhia under his wing.
Budhia turns out to be a handful. He swears, is messy, has a bed-wetting problem, and refuses to listen to anybody. Yet, it’s hard to blame him. Adults have always let him down, slapping and beating him when they don’t like his behaviour. But, in Biranchi Das, he finds an adult who takes him seriously. Someone who genuinely wants to care for him and mentor him.
Das may have his own vested interests in the boy. But for Budhia, Das is the father he never had.
Budhia Singh – Born To Run, like its marathoner, is fast-paced. Maybe a little too fast-paced. So are the good times in Budhia’s story. Picked up from the slum and taken care of by Das, one would think the five-year-old has finally been saved from the worst. Except, he endures a far worse nightmare than he did in the slum.
Das trains Budhia to be the greatest marathoner in India. At one point, Das makes Budhia run for the water bottle, after running for nearly 50 km. You can’t help but cringe. Even Gita, the doctor in charge, and the journalists watching, look away in disapproval.
It becomes apparent whose dream Budhia is running for.
The words ‘record breaking’ and ‘greatest’ are too much for little Budhia to understand. All Budhia wants is a red cycle, biscuit dipped in hot tea on a cold morning, and to watch the fish swim in a nearby stream. It’s precious little to ask for. Instead, he’s being paraded around like a trained puppy. For all the glory, it’s hard to overlook the fact that his childhood is slowly being snatched away.
The film also peeks into the life of the man who made Budhia Singh a ‘Wonder Boy’. Das cares for Budhia more than his own son, gifts Budhia new shoes in front of all the other kids, and sings Budhia’s praises right after his wife has given birth. Gita is flabbergasted at her husband’s extreme training methods for a five-year-old. So are we. But soon enough, Gita becomes just a voice in the background, like the other spectators witnessing Budhia’s circus-like life.
Budhia Singh – Born To Run is not one of those preachy films with a moral science lesson at the end like Taare Zameen Par. Manoj Bajpai is convincing enough to make you hate his character at times, yet feel for him when he meets Budhia for the last time. Mayur Patole is equally gifted. His performance is so realistic that at times the film resembles a documentary; his wide-eyed innocence and his broken tears as heartbreaking as the story.
The real Budhia Singh is now 14 years old and lives with his mother. After being banned from running marathons and ordered to stay at a government sports hostel, Budhia still yearns to run like he used to.
With a timely release right before the Rio Olympics, Budhia Singh – Born To Run makes you wonder – how many Budhias go unnoticed? How different would things have been had Budhia not been rescued by Biranchi Das that night?
The Budhia Singh – Born To Run review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.