by Hiba Usmani.
Biopics are usually a dangerous game. Sometimes you witness successes like Neerja, and sometimes you go through masala filled stories such as Sarbjit. However, in Born to Run we have a biopic that sheds light on short-lived glory and a forgotten story.
The film is simple in its plotline, yet somehow perfectly represents the complexity and fragility of the human life. In its two hour running time, Born to Run doesn’t have a single dull moment. 4-year old Budhia Singh comes out of a life of squalor and hunger when local judo coach, Biranchi Das saves him from the cruel hands of a travelling salesman.
Biranchi runs an orphanage with his wife, Gita, and brings Budhia there; however, instead of showing gratitude, he is constantly disturbed and quite a troublemaker. One day, Biranchi punishes him by making him run around the playground. When he returns to the playground 5 hours later, Budhia is still running and a later doctor examination shows nothing wrong with his heart.
In Budhia, Biranchi sees talent and success and thus pushes Budhia to his limits, resulting in the child running 48 marathons and being touted as the youngest marathon-runner. His fame leads to significant financial gains for Biranchi, who comes under the scrutiny and criticism of the government and child care officials. The kid succeeds against all odds, but the defining moment in his life comes when his coach ends up murdered by gangster, Raja Acharya.
In its essence, the movie is an ethical debate about the treatment of Budhia by his coach. From a purely legal viewpoint, Biranchi can be seen as unbearably cruel: training anyone for 48 marathons, one of which went on for 60km without water, is a daunting and exhausting task for the runner.
To have a four year old child face such strenuous situations and have such stress forced on his underdeveloped body appears as nothing short of cruel. However, at the same time one must wonder if that is any better than the alternative Budhia would have faced.
Forced to live with a salesman that was unbearably cruel to him and unreasonably hated, Biranchi used his own hard-earned money to free Budhia from that life and attempted to rehabilitate an otherwise difficult child. The movie clearly chooses to take the second viewpoint.
While described as strict and ferocious, Manoj Bajpayee’s portrayal of Biranchi is of a passionate humanitarian who truly does love and care for Budhia, even as he pushes him beyond his limits. In order to balance out the strictness that Biranchi enforces, we have his wife Gita who acts as the sensitive motherly figure towards the young child.
The director opts to depict Biranchi as a visionary man who was bullied and oppressed by government interference. The movie suggests that had Biranchi been left to his own devices, he would have propelled Budhia to Olympic runner level and brought fame and honour to India. In the real world, however, the government ended up barring Budhia from running and now he runs in a government sport facility, possessing none of the skills he showed before.
Born to run is yet another sports biopic which could have benefited from less cliché scenes of Budhia pounding the asphalt and stereotypical portrayals of ‘evil’ government officials. Yet, it still rises above the average Indian film within the genre and very aptly portrays a story that should not have been forgotten.