The film is a deftly written and shot narrative. The writers understand that the central story is so strong and meaty, that choreography is all that is necessary. This they do well, filling in the spaces between Budhia’s marathons with Orissa politics that ultimately drive the final resolution
A significant scene that may get lost in the bigger story is when Biranchi Das (Manoj Bajpayee) misses the delivery of his own child, because he was attending a function in honor of his adopted son, Budhia Singh. His wife is expressly unhappy. He may or may not realize this. But his only reaction after congratulating her (almost as if it was her personal achievement) is to leave an audio tape of Budhia Singh next to her, and exit the hospital dorm to take a phone call.
Biranchi Das’s obsession with his pint sized running prodigy defines and drives the film. The word obsession is deliberately used. Biranchi fights his wife, his friends, politicians and public opinion to make Budhia run. The reason is not explicit. He could win the Olympics. He should run because he can. And so on. There are times he uses Budhia as a showboat, arguably against the best interest of the child.
The film does not put Biranchi Das above suspicion. The ambiguity adds an unexpected edge to what could have been an otherwise straightforward film.
What absolutely always works is the sight of Budhia running marathons. The idea that a four year old can run 26 kms is absurd, and it is surreal to see it happen. The child actor Mayur Patole plays Budhia Singh, and seeing him run km after km is a joy to watch. The momentous event when he runs 65 kms in 7 hours is captured brilliantly in the film. His innocence is apparent. Both events – his rise to fame with Biranchi’s well publicized runs and the abrupt end thanks to Orissa’s political machinations – are beyond his control and his desire. All he likes is running and that is all he does in the film.
The film is a deftly written and shot narrative. The writers understand that the central story is so strong and meaty, that choreography is all that is necessary. This they do well, filling in the spaces between Budhia’s marathons with Orissa politics that ultimately drive the final resolution. Lesser but important factors like the impact of Budhia Singh on Biranchi’s family and his birth parents are given sufficient time and space to grow. Manoj Bajpayee’s decisive performance is the other strong driving force for the story. Intense, rebellious, and not above emotional manipulations to get his opinion heard, he has a great character to play. Like JK Simmons’s Terence Fletcher from Whiplash, his coach is relentless in his obsession with the goal of a singular sporting achievement. Unlike the rest of the world, he sees the baby Budhia as a precocious talent first and a toddler later. Perhaps this gives him the will to push a child so hard for so long. This facet is captured and delivered with a rousing performance by Bajpayee.
Released on the opening day of the Rio Olympics, the film is an appropriate reminder of two things that sporting greatness in our country suffers from and that Budhia’s talent manages to break free from – poverty and politics. There is tragedy knowing that Budhia Singh is unable to run even today, and there is hope that maybe one day he will.
Hindi, Drama, Sports, Color