About A Boy... And His Coach
When a coach trains a five year old against all logic, is it for self publicity or has he really saved the boy from abject poverty and slavery? Does the government have any right over a young sportsperson’s need to run or did they do a right thing? This movie tackles all this and more by telling us the story of a five year old marathon runner Budhia Singh and his devoted coach Birinchi Das. Will shake you up.
When parents drive their kids from one class to another, expecting academic excellence, are they really pushing their own agenda or are they simply honing their child’s abilities? We don’t ask this question of ordinary folk whose dedication to their kids can be quite fierce, then why did we ridicule the dedication of Birinchi Das a coach who found an extra-ordinary talent in Budhia Singh?
Budhia Singh came into limelight as the youngest person ever to run marathons. Yes, not one, not two but 48 marathons. His life has been chronicled by Gemma Atwal, a UK born Indian marathoner who has made the award winning documentary ‘Marathon Boy’ on the relationship between coach Birinchi Das and Budhia.
This film is shot in a similar almost documentary style but with Manoj Bajpayee as Birinchi Das, the film is elevated into more than just a sports film. Manoj Bajpayee explores so many facets of the coach, and you automatically take sides with the coach and his little ‘wonder boy’. He rescues the boy from forced labour and ill-treatment and brings him home (he runs an orphanage and a judo school). Birinchi Das discovers a streak of stubbornness in the kid and uses that to train him to run. He loves the kid so much he officially adopts him. He sets up a trust fund in the boy’s name and secures the little boy’s future. He takes every charge - opportunistic, self-publicity seeker, monster, slave-driver - to his chin and continues to train the child. He is so dedicated to the child, he is torn when the government interferes and snatches Budhia away from him. Manoj Bajpayee brings so many nuances to a role that could have been a cardboard cutout stereotype of a mad sports coach. He even manages to make you baulk at his training methods which seem too harsh considering the boy is only five yars old.
The movie also stars Tilottama Shome, a fine actor, who plays Budhia’s mother. Initially, she looks like she is out of place in the poverty stricken neighborhood (too beautiful, you think), but then grows into the role of an avaricious woman who lies her way back into Budhia’s life for the money she thinks he’s making. Helping her realise the potential of her son as a source of money is actor Gopal K Singh, who plays (the creepiest role ever!) a local rabble rouser who incites the mother to take Budhia back. He is so accomplished, you will want to slap him!
One thing the movie fails to show is abject poverty the people are facing. That Budhia’s mother is forced to sell her kid because there is no money to buy daily essentials. That kids are dying every day of malnutrition and hunger. The reason why Budhia Singh’s rescue is so important. The film glosses over the poverty and when Manoj Bajpayee explains to the media, ‘One child dies every day, I have really rescued the boy!’ the explanation does not sound convincing.
The government sports department and the child welfare department look like crooks that they are and actor Chhaya Kadam who plays the self-absorbed child welfare minister is so good, you begin to believe she has no one else’s good in mind except her own.
The movie raises so many questions, it feels longer than the runtime of one hour and fifty minutes. But not in a bad way at all. In fact, Manoj Bajpayee is so good, you should watch the movie just for him. As parents you do the best for your kids, but where is the final line? Today Budhia Singh is being made to play cricket, sprint 100m at the government coaching facility. Will Coach Birinchi Das’s dream be un-fulfilled? Or has Budhia Singh really been rescued?