‘Budhia Singh: Born to Run’ – The story of a child prodigy

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.


Budhia Singh: Born To Run

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.

Budhia Singh

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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.

BUDHIA SINGH

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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.

Ten years on, Budhia Singh, now fourteen years of age, wants to run a marathon again, but does not have a coach or the training facilities.

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.

An interesting watch that depicts reality and draws the audience into it.

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Readers Comments (34)

  1. This is inspiring. Usually the people with bare minimum necessities come out excellently. I think we used to have a chapter on him, I don’t remember which class. Thank you for sharing this story.

    Reply
  2. Its movies like these, somewhere aside the ‘masala’ blockbusters, which are simple at their souls win your hearts and they need to be pulled up to the mainstream movies!! Excellent efforts for praise of good cinema!👍👍☺

    Reply
  3. I had heard about the young boy.. but completely forgotten about him.

    Pity a talent is wasted in petty interests .. such a shame.. where s the govt now. Why can’t they provide facilities and help the young kid.

    Everyone in india I beleive look at near goals rather than future goals

    Reply
  4. Our country has talent, the thing we lack is proper scientific training facilities and world-class coaching. Good to know that Budhia Singh’s story is releasing on the silver screen. It cal solve as well as raise pertinent questions as far as such child prodigies are concerned in the field of sports.

    Reply
  5. Inspiring story, Somali. I can’t help but wonder if Budhia is able to withstand a marathon at his young age as his body is still developing; even at 14 years old. Perhaps he can run shorter races for now, then he wouldn’t have to give up his passion and most importantly, not jeopardize his health.

    Reply
  6. Very heart touching story…our young generation should be motivated by the story…congrats…

    Reply
  7. More movies like this should be made. People’s grief and problems like this strike a chord in hearts only when they are released as movies rather than mere news. It is indeed a sad state of affairs. But yet, I know people who say movies with messages are boring. Then there are issues like these where ego spoils lives. Thanks for this review. If not for this. I’d never have heard of this.

    Reply
  8. This sounds a very interesting Movie Somali and yes I can see how many questions are raised in this set of events.. One film to watch out for.. 🙂
    Wishing you a beautiful week my friend..
    Love and Blessings your way Somali ..
    Hugs Sue xx

    Reply
  9. bhudeb chakrabarti August 12, 2016 @ 10:43 am

    An excellent write-up on Budhia Singh.Budhia Singh is now just fifteen and is a promising runner.
    Proper training should be given to him to nurture his talent.The State and the Sports bodies should
    systematically and scientifically plan and work in developing talents like Budhia Singh to compete in
    the National and International sports events and perform well..

    Reply
  10. The write up and the movie brings back the fond memories and achievements of the sensation called Budhia and the insensitivity of our society to such talents.

    Reply
  11. The subject of the movie is really interesting Somali. I was not familiar with Budhia’s story. Now that it had been made into a movie, it will reach many people and will probably guide them so that more talents are not wasted in our country.

    Reply
  12. Locating promising talent,nurturing it to grow to high levels professionally and enabling it to blossom at the right time and places is the way forward.i have read about the boy long ago.Your post is moving rising many questions for sports authorities.I would like to watch the movie.

    Reply
  13. Also loved your poem on the Puffin.. Loved his ‘tuxedo coat’ and they are a favourite coastal bird, we do not get to see them where I live, 🙂 xxx

    Reply
  14. This is an honestly made extra-ordinary movie and your review does full justice to the sincerity of the filmmaker. Like all the fields in Mera Bharat Mahaan, sports is also marred by petty politics and vested interests which serve more to spoilage of talent than to nurture it. People like us can only send their good wishes to Budhia Singh for getting another sincere and committed mentor / godfather so that his inborn talent is not wasted. He has a long life before him. Hope, someone in the deaf and blind government and its affliates pays due attention to the boy’s present situation and takes the right step in the interest of not only the boy but also the nation.

    Hearty thanks and compliments for posting this review.

    Jitendra Mathur

    Reply
    • Thank you Mr Mathur. We all know that there is a dearth of good sports coaching in the country. Official apathy worsens the situation. Let’s hope some authorities do take notice of the boy and help to groom his talent.

      Reply
  15. Very inspiring. Goes to show how coaches and parents have a huge hand in the success of an athlete.

    Reply

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