By Somali K Chakrabarti
What happens when a child is bestowed with incredible talent that tremendously surpasses the ability of others? Chances are that such a child is declared as a prodigy. According to wikipedia, child prodigy refers to a child, who under the age of ten produces meaningful output in some domain to the level of an adult expert performer. Wolfgang Mozart started composing at the age of three. Pablo Picasso is known to draw before he could talk. He made his first oil painting at the age of nine.
While some child prodigies grow up to become eminent individuals, not all children who are identified as prodigies grow up to be extraordinary adults. Prodigies may receive a lot of fame and adulation in the childhood, but more than adulation, they need support and resources to realize or surpass the promise shown in the childhood.
Many such issues arise in the movie Budhia Singh– Born to run, based on the true story of Budhia Singh, a boy from Odisha, whose name was listed in the Limca book of Records as the world’s youngest marathon runner in the year 2006.
Born into a very poor family in a slum in Odisha, Budhia is raised up by a Judo trainer Biranchi Das and his wife, along with 20 orphan children in their house. The coach accidentally discovers his talent when once he asks him to do laps of the ground as a punishment for swearing, before he goes out with his wife to look into his businesses. When he returns a couple of hours later, to his astonishment, he finds the boy still running, and yet not showing any signs of fatigue. Panicked, he takes Budhia to a hospital for a medical check-up, where the boy is declared to be perfectly fit and fine.
Biranchi Das decides to nurture the talent of the little boy and train him to be a marathon runner. Thus begins Budhia’s rigorous training, which the child seems to undergo with ease. When Budhia starts showing the promise of turning into a marathon runner, the word that a little boy runs an average of 30 km a day spreads like wild fire.
Fame and gains go hand in hand. Budhia’s success in running for long distances and his rising fame, also lead to an increase in his coach Biranchi Das’s ambition for Budhia, as also the accusations that Das is using the child’s talent for furthering his own ambitions. With support from a politician and some groups, Biranchi Das continues to train the boy.
The local Judo Association organises a marathon from Puri to Bhubansehwar, which is well publicised in newspaper and television. At the age of five Budhia starts running from Puri to Bhubansehwar to cover a distance of 70 kms.
Biranchi Das cycles with Budhia, volunteers control the crowd and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Jawans run with the boy to cheer him and boost his morale. CRPF render their support and arrange for an ambulance and doctor moving alongside Budhia for medical assistance, in case needed. A team from the Limca Book of Records times the event. The marathon, which is a test of his will power and his extraordinary endurance is televised all over Odisha. The mad ferver is palpable when Budhia collapses after covering 65 kms in seven hrs in severe heat without water.
With the success of the marathon, Budhia turns into an overnight sensation, and Das starts dreaming of training Budhia for Oympics, 2016.
The marathon, however, draws flak from the State Child Welfare department and Human Rights groups who question the wisdom of allowing a boy to run for such long distances. At the age of five, Budhia is too young to endure such tough conditions. They say that it could permanently hamper his ability to run. On the order of the Child Welfare Committee, police drags the child out of the house and takes him for a medical test despite Das’s protests. Backed by his mother Budhia gives a statement against his coach.
In the clash of ego that takes place, between the State Child Welfare department and the coach Biranchi Das, charges of torture and child exploitation are slapped on the coach. Budhia is separated from his coach and sent to the Kalinga Sport hostel. The Child Welfare group also bans him from running marathons. At the hostel Budhia is asked to run in sprint events. Subsequently, the coach Biranchi Das is shot dead by some goons. With the death of his coach, Budhia’s motivation level for running and training take a back seat.
The movie leaves the viewers with the thought that with all good intentions, did Biranchi Das push Budhia too far to fulfil his own dreams? Would making a small child run for such long distances have helped Budhia in the long run? On the other hand, did the activists and the welfare committee, inspite of all valid arguments, work with the best intention for the child in mind or did they just want to settle a score with Biranchi Das?
The movie also brings up a very valid question. Was the rare talent of Budhia Singh completely wasted in the scuttle between the state, activists and the coach, or is there still hope for him?
The fast paced movie has a tight script, convincing acting and good musical score. The song ‘Sunapua’ has a Odia flavour to it and is particularly heart warming. Hope the movie helps Budhia Singh to get proper training for running and a coach who can let his talent bloom once again.
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