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Review By : Saibal Chatterjee For – NDTV
Rating : 3.5/5
A Bollywood sports film is usually an awkward creature. It tends to be a loud, lumbering beast prone to melodramatic flab and excessive deification. Mercifully, first-time writer-director Soumendra Padhi’s Budhia Singh – Born to Run isn’t one.
It is neither average Bollywood fare nor is it just another sports-themed potboiler designed to magnify the heroics of an achiever.
It does no superfluous huffing and puffing. It instead probes the multiple social and emotional strands, and the dramatic highs and treacherous lows, linked to the incredible true story of Budhia Singh.
By age five, the Odisha boy had run nearly 50 marathons under the tutelage of an obsessive coach Biranchi Das.
The spotlight of Padhi’s screenplay is as much on the tireless wonder boy as on the dogged man who rescues him from the squalor of a poverty-stricken slum and sets out to groom him for Olympic glory.
Budhia finds the comfort of home in Biranchi’s judo training centre, but his dreams of running the Marathon in the Olympic Games are shattered by bureaucratic manipulation, political skullduggery and media shenanigans.
In 2005-2006, Budhia’s feats attracted worldwide attention and yielded the 2011 documentary Marathon Boy by Gemma Atwal.
Padhi’s fictional account of two crucial years in the tumultuous life of the world’s youngest marathon runner (he is a child who wets his bed, bickers with his mates and hankers after a red bicycle) has characters drawn from the real world.
Among them is the American-Indian documentarian who follows the boy around with her camera, recording every move.
A 65-kilometer run from Puri to Bhubaneswar proves to be one too many for the boy. Ten years on, an absurd ban on Budhia the long distance runner is still in place.
Set in the pulsating world of long-distance running, Budhia Singh – Born to Run plays out like an epic tragedy in which overarching ambition, greed, exploitation and administrative intrigue come together to queer the pitch for the protagonist and his mentor.
Not that Biranchi receives no support at all. He is backed to the hilt by an Opposition politician, CRPF personnel and an empathetic doctor who constantly monitors Budhia’s health as he passes one endurance test after another.
Anchored by a typically solid performance from Manoj Bajpayee as the never-say-die judo instructor who spots Budhia’s penchant for running, the film presents an emotionally engaging story about a man’s tussle against the media and the child welfare system that are overtly predisposed against him.
Bajpayee fleshes out Biranchi as a cocksure man who listens to nothing but his own inner nudges, a trait that, in the end, turns out to his biggest obstacle.
He is assailed by doubts, too, and that is proven almost every time that he declares Mujhe pata hain main kya kar raha hoon (I know exactly what I am doing)!
That refrain is almost like a veiled admonishment, an attempt by Biranchi to assure himself that he is on the right path. But is he? The film provides no clear answer. It leaves the audience to grapple with the imponderables.
That apart, what sets Budhia Singh – Born to Run well apart from the likes of Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Mary Kom or Azhar is its steadfast eschewal of Bollywood-style melodrama.
Not that Padhi does not use some of the devices associated with conventional Hindi cinema – such as background songs to underscore the sage of Budhia’s struggle – but he does so sparingly.
He also tones them down appreciably through the means of a staccato editing pattern. The pace that he imparts to the story obviates the possibility of any scene being held longer than absolutely necessary.
Budhia Singh – Born to Run is by no means a perfect film, but it is an honest, heartfelt and highly effective tribute to a coach and his ward who were bafflingly stopped in their tracks.
Mayur Patole, the child actor who plays Budhia with admirable felicity, lends authenticity to the character by virtue of being a real, believable face.
The perfectly cast Mayur isn’t one of those chocolaty boys/girls that Mumbai directors turn to when they want to add a syrupy spin to their larger-than-life tales.
Budhia Singh – Born to Run hinges on two emotional bonds. One is of course between Biranchi and Budhia, a father figure-gifted disciple relationship that weathers many storms.
The other is between Biranchi and his wife Gita (Shruti Marathe), who helps him run the judo school and is exasperated no end by her husband’s neglect of his own son.
The screenplay, however, devotes insufficient footage to the character of Budhia’s widowed mother Sukanti (Tillotama Shome), a slum dweller who has to rough it out for mere survival.
The sheer power of the story that Padhi tells serves to paper over the minor chinks in the tale.
The film celebrates an improbable dream and mourns its untimely death, both with infectious passion, and ends with a fervent appeal on a behalf of a social media campaign to put Budhia back in his running shoes. Not a bad idea at all.
Overall, Budhia Singh – Born to Run is worth running all the way to the nearest multiplex for.
As published on NDTV
Review By : Rohit Vats For – Hindustan Times
Rating : 4/5
A 5-year-old poor kid wants to run because it can fetch him new shoes, or a new cycle. An ambitious but cynical coach pushes the child to his limits because he is convinced the boy is talented. The kid succeeds against all odds, and that becomes the most defining moment of his life: because it will one day end up in his beloved coach’s murder.
We know the story of Odisha’s wonder-boy Budhia Singh, a running sensation who took media, politics and the world by storm in 2005-06. On his trainer’s insistence, he ran countless marathons before setting out on a successful Puri to Bhubaneswar run trail of 70 km. A darling of national and international media, Budhia was seen as a potential medal winner for India in 2016 Olympics. But he is still under a ban that prohibits him from long distance running.
This ban is a result of a long struggle between his coach and the child welfare department of Odisha. Budhia Singh – Born To Run is a documentation of the events leading to this ban.
A judo coach-cum-local political activist Biranchi Das (Manoj Bajpayee) discovers Budhia’s (Mayur Patole) gift for running, and starts training him. Das is self-obsessed, spirited and feisty. His fondness for Budhia makes him ignore his own family and other kids at his training centre. He knows the intricacies of local politics and is master at exploiting it.
Bajpayee’s Das is bursting with energy and is ready to take on the world. He knows the art of media manipulation and is subtle in approach. He has walked a tight rope here as a slight mistake would have made him the villain of this story. Many still accuse Das of cruelty towards the child, but the director, Soumendra Padhi, wants us to believe in his humanity and undiluted love for Budhia.
The story is structured around him, and his murder is presented as an obvious conspiracy. Padhi doesn’t make a direct statement, but there’s a lot to read between the lines.
The sparkling chemistry between Bajpayee and Patole makes it a tale of self respect, pride and dignity rather than frustration, treachery and scams.
High-voltage scenes of clash between locals led by Das and the authorities are a treat to watch. The best part is the film’s reluctance in doling out definitive answers. The suspenseful halo around Das’ persona makes him one of the more memorable characters played by Manoj Bajpayee.Shruti Marathe is equally effective as his wife Gita.
Real-life footages are used to give it an authentic feel. We see athletes like PT Usha talking about Budhia, and then we begin wondering whether we failed him! Is it too late to rectify the mistake? Did the state administration kill a natural talent?
The frenzy and enigma surrounding a small boy is conveyed with precision. The meticulously planned screenplay makes the audience a party to the story. More like a fly on the wall, the viewer keeps watching everything from an objective distance.
As published on Hindustan Times
Review By : Renuka Vyavahare For – Times of India
Rating : 4/5
RIVETING RACE AGAINST OVERWHELMING ODDS
STORY: The National award winning film is based on the controversial true story of Odisha’s wonder boy Budhia Singh (played by Mayur Mahendra Patole) and his mentor Biranchi Das (Manoj Bajpayee), who faces opposition from various quarters for seeing an Olympic dream for the world’s youngest marathon runner.
REVIEW: Riddled with extreme poverty, a four-year-old Budhia was sold to a peddler by his mother for Rs 800. Biranchi, a local judo coach, takes the spunky boy under his wing. The child’s running abilities makes Biranchi hopeful that he could be India’s greatest Marathon runner. (Budhia ran from Bhubaneswar to Puri at the age of four covering 65 kilometres in 7 hours). However, the coach faced backlash on ethical grounds for imposing vigorous training practices on the child. The government inquiry, public scrutiny and media circus that followed, clipped the boy’s wings and banned him from running long-distances.
This incredible film must be lauded for presenting a debatable topic in the most balanced fashion. It doesn’t take sides; however, it questions the society at large for making a joke out of a boy who deserved to dream big.
The biopic provokes you to question if Biranchi was right in pushing Budhia to break insurmountable records at such a young age? With child labour rampant in the country, somewhere, you do tend to agree with the coach, when he nonchalantly states that even if the excessive running was to take Budhia’s life, he would have died with dignity and honour than hunger and poverty. On the other hand, would Biranchi have pushed his own child in a similar way? Besides, raising these questions, it also gives you goosebumps as it mirrors our society’s deepest vices – poverty and corruption.
After Aligarh, Bajpayee leaves you spellbound with his brilliance once again. His angst, frustration and relentless struggle against the system until he is compelled to accept defeat leaves a void in your heart. He’s ably supported by a moving performance from Mayur, who plays Budhia. Engrossing from start to finish, Soumendra Padhi deserves a standing ovation for bringing this rollercoaster journey of a child prodigy and his ambitious mentor to celluloid.
As published on Times of India