Real Budhia Singh missing, but Manoj Bajpayee keeps mum

Actor passes the baton to director Soumendra Padhi, who says Budhia is a fighter and he will come back.

Mayur Lookhar

Biopics are flowing thick and fast in Hindi cinema. While most celebrate the glory of a legend or underline a tragedy, the upcoming film on wonder child Budhia Singh has far greater significance attached to it.

Disturbingly, on the very day when the makers of Budhia Singh – Born To Run began their promotional campaign, news of Budhia Singh being missing made the headlines.

Interestingly, when lead actor Manoj Bajpayee was informed about this and asked a few questions, he politely skirted the issue and said the director would be the best person to answer.

For the record, Bajpayee was asked if he would make an appeal to Budhia Singh to come back. He was also asked what the film could do for Budhia's future. Finally, he was asked whether running those 40-odd marathons at a tender age had resulted in burning Budhia out.

Director Soumendra Padhi, too, did not answer the questions but had this to say: "I don't think Budhia is missing. As far as I know, he has been staying with his uncle. Budhia was born to run. He is a fighter, so he will come back. I think the media should give him some privacy. We have plans to involve Budhia Singh in our promotions closer to release."

However, Pranakrushna Khatua, Budhia's uncle, told Odisha TV that Budhia had come to his house just once during the summer vacations and he hadn't seen him since.

Budhia was reportedly unhappy with the sports facilities in his sports hostel and wanted the authorities to allow him to participate in the inter-state and national athletic events. The 14-year-old had even bemoaned the lack of a coach at the hostel.

Commenting on whether Budhia Singh had burnt out his energies as a child, Padhi said, "[Formula One world champion] Lewis Hamilton stared racing at the age of six. A talent needs to be spotted early, but, more importantly, it needs to be nurtured over a period of time. Unfortunately, after his early success, that hasn't happened with Budhia. However, he's only 14. Give him some time. He will probably return and be back to running."

As for what the film could do for the youngster who is reportedly not in great physical or financial shape, the director said, "He's 14 now. To participate in the Olympics, you need to be 18 years or above. So, at present, he has time on his side. He needs nurturing though."

Bajpayee did speak of the lack of a sports culture and infrastructure for athletes in India. "There are many Budhias in the country who never get a chance to showcase or hone their skills," the actor said. "I will not name him, but there used to be a talented spinner who quit the game for lack of support from anyone. Personally, I, too, had to battle hard to become an actor. Acting was considered the lowest of all professions in the place where I come from.”

Meanwhile, the film's producers launched the Born To Run anthem. Penned by Prashant Ingole and sung by Siddharth Mahadevan and Arhaan Khan, the anthem will make you get off your comfortable sofa and take a walk at least, if not run. Siddharth has all the traits of his father Shankar Mahadevan while young Arhaan’s voice will win you over.

Budhia Singh – Born To Run will release on 5 August. For now, catch the Born To Run anthem.