Wednesday, September 27, 2023

‘Budhia Singh – Born To Run’: Incredible tale, honestly told

Himalayan Paths

By Troy Ribeiro
Film: “Budhia Singh – Born To Run”; Director: Soumendra Padhi; Cast: Manoj Bajpayee, Mayur Patole, Shruti Marathe, Tillotama Shome, Gopal K. Singh, Gajraj Rao;

Incredible India has incredible stories and one of them is adroitly captured in this sensitively portrayed biopic, “Budhia Singh: Born To Run”.

This human interest story emanating out of Orissa, is a saga of a prodigy – marathon runner, Budhia Singh (Mayur Patole) who was once considered “The Pride of Orissa” and “a hope for India’s 2016 Olympic Medal, in marathon.”

The film depicts the trials and tribulations of; the young boy who, “at the age of five, ran marathons like a professional”, and his overtly ambitious coach Biranchi Das (Manoj Bajpayee).

The narration begins in May 2006. In a slum area of Bhubaneshwar, Judo instructor Biranchi takes centre-stage by thwarting a clash between the police and the slum dwellers. Later, by happenstance, he rescues a 5 year old Budhia from the clutches of an abusive drunkard, who had purchased him from his poverty-stricken, widowed mother Sukanti (Tillotama Shome). He returns the child to the mother.

But since Sukanti is unable to take care of the little one, she hands him back to Biranchi, who takes him to his home-cum-Judo-training school, where he hosts other homeless kids too.

It is here that Biranchi stumbles upon Budhia’s talent and grooms him to get the recognition he deserves. But how fate or random circumstances throw the rising star into the abyss of oblivion, forms the crux of the tale.

This is not only a powerful story that engages the audience. It is well-told too. With simplicity and a realistic approach, Writer-Director Soumendra Padhi’s script is balanced and taut with all the elements of a touching drama.

The pacing of the narrative is on an even keel and every moment is well-captured, especially the chaotic situation in the climactic scene. It has an adrenaline effect that adds to the frustrations.

Padhi manages to portray; human apathy, exploitation, greed and politics with equal measure. In fact it overturns a can of worms, that exposes the disturbing state of affairs especially in this case.

His characters are well-etched and the dialogues are crisp and rustic and they are brought to life with strong performances.

Manoj Bajpayee nails his character of the determined and pushy Biranchi Das to perfection. You adore him when he is a compassionate well-wisher, loath him when he is blinded with his ambitious goal and pity him when he is emotionally drained.

Mayur Patole is endearing as the insignificant underdog, Budhia. It is his innocence and unpretentious attitude that makes him shine. His monkeying and obtuse reaction is what elicits chuckles among the audience. Especially when he says, “Haga aur bhaga.”, when asked by his teacher as to what he did, before he came to school.

Tillotama Shome is a brilliant actress, but as Sukanti, in a limited screen time she hardly has any moments to display her histrionics. She is aptly supported by Gopal K Singh, as her love interest and a scheming opportunist.

But the surprise package is Shruti Marathe as Biranchi’s wife Gita. She holds her stead against Manoj with fair gusto. She smoothly conveys the poignant turmoil of a wife and mother.

Mounted with moderate production values, the songs and background score elevate the viewing experience.

Overall, the film with all minor misgivings, is a candid and honest tribute to a talent we have cast off.

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