Budhia Singh – Born To Run review: Sleek, fast and pointed

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Budhia Singh – Born To Run
Cast: Manoj Bajpayee, Mayur Patole, Shruti Marathe
Director: Soumendra Padhi
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.

Despite dramatic crests and troughs, Budhia Singh – Born To Run is true to the original story.
At 111-minutes, Budhia Singh – Born To Run doesn’t give us any dull moments. It’s a fantastic relationship drama in the disguise of a tout thriller.