Budhia Born to Run, Manoj Bajpayee Born to Act
The release of this National Award winning film could not have been better timed. With the Rio Olympics in full swing and well-wishers of the Indian contingent hoping that India would increase its medal tally from 6 that it won in England in 2012, viewers are left wondering whether the government did right by banning the child prodigy Budhia Singh from running. Could he have added to the medal tally?
Budhia had grabbed national attention by running a 65 kilometres distance between Bhubaneshwar and Puri in record time of 7 hours at the age of four and went on to run many marathons was banned from his favourite hobby as it was felt that he was being used by his coach to grab attention for personal glory.That ban stands till date as the film tells us in the end.
But back to the film.This debut directorial venture by Soumendra Padhi manages to bring out all the complexities of this moral dilemma in which it is difficult to take sides even today.Did the media overplay the age factor of the child to make it appear cruel to make him run. Or did we kill a potential winner by being unduly concerned? After all, every athlete has to undergo vigorous training sessions to withstand international competition be it a four year Budhia Singh or a mother of three children Mary Kom.
To be fair the film does not take sides.This is not as easy as it seems even for a director because Manoj Bajpayee as the coach (Biranchi Das)of Budhia (Mayur Patole) is so manipulative and convincing to see that his protege retains the spotlight that one begins to take pity on the gullibility of the child.
But Biranchi Das is no black and white villain either.Does he really care for this innocent athlete whom he has discovered because he is basically a judo coach? When he makes Budhia run showing him a bottle of water like dangling food before a horse the foreigner shooting the documentary turns away in disgust?The media hates him.
However the pathos of his crying when Budhia is taken away from him is so touching that it convinces you that he has lost his favourite toy,or some one on whom he had pinned huge hopes.The way he pants and heaves while running with Budhia he does not appear like exploiting him as the media would like us to believe.
But Budhia is not a black and white documentary.It is a film about hope, about the state intervening for the welfare of children,about poverty of Odissa portrayed with all honesty.As Budhia (Madhur Patole) is a find and he should have a bright future.
Then there is also the personal story about the wife of the coach without a child, portrayed poignantly by Tilottama Shome that makes the story so real as to win the National Award.
However as viewers walk out of the theatre the mesmerising performance of Manoj Bajpayee as the coach once again proves that if Budhia is born to run Manoj Bajpayee is born to act.