Bhaag Milkha Bhaag

August 4, 2013

Just got home after watching Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, and there’s a lump in my throat. The movie is a spectacle, and so much more. It is a fine mix of breathtaking visuals, great performances and most importantly, an inspiring story of one of India’s biggest legends.

The story of Milkha Singh is something people of my generation grew up reading, mostly in general knowledge books. My parent’s generation actually witnessed his achievements, and the current generation perhaps never even heard of him. This movie recreates that legend, and how.

What Milkha achieved was exceptional. He trained like a mad man, apparently so hard that he would faint on the ground and be carried away after 5-6 hours of running, or his pee would contain blood. The most fascinating story is of him filling up a bucket with sweat as he trained, and only be done when the bucket was full.

Apparently Farhan Akhtar trained for 6 hours everyday for over a year to get into Milkha shape. He got trained much like a professional runner. I wonder how fast he can run the 400m, and whether he will be interested in running for India in the next Olympics? The man sure had me going gay for him with his performance and that toned torso he made sure was in full display for much of the movie. On the flipside, having no fat on your body means that floating on water is much more harder. There’s a reason i keep some of it around.

Milkha Singh’s achievements are there for all to see. Gold medals at the Asian Games and Commonwealth games. Not just a rare appearance in an athletic finals at the Olympics, but actually be considered one of the favorites, only to lose because of a silly lapse of looking behind and losing momentum in a race where milliseconds decide the result. His 400 m record from 1960 got broken only 38 years later in 1998.

In today’s times of instant gratification and expectations of overnight success (like people writing a first book as a part-time activity, and expecting them to sell 50 million copies in the first month. wink wink.), this story is very relevant. Success comes to those who burn themselves for it, unless you’re born into prestigious political or Bollywood families, where it comes with the DNA.

I hope this message gets sent across to people. Work hard. Success will follow. Karma kiye ja, phal ki iccha mat kar. The message of geeta. The concept of karma. There are no short cuts

Other than that, there are so many layers to the movie.

There’s the hurt that the partition caused. The trauma of seeing your loved ones being attacked by Pakistanis as you run to safety, only to return later hoping for signs of normalcy, only to find the entire clan lying dead in a pool of blood. Imagine that happening to a little boy. The partition was a sad event for families that endured it, and such scars take time to go away. I know my grandparents also lost everything in the partition, and had to start lives afresh in independent India. I will never know what it was quite like, and i am fortunate that i live in less turbulent times.

There’s the sweet little love story between a deglamorised Sonam Kapoor and young tapori Milkha. They barely know each other’s names, but are already on to the ‘i love you’ stage. The guy was fast, surely.

There’s the importance of a good coach. We may all have hidden talents inside us, but it is a coach who brings them out. He is the one who pushes us to the limits and makes us achieve what we never thought we could. There’s also the concept of the coach as guru, who is to be respected. In today’s material times, neither do many teachers care, nor many students respect them, unless they are SRK from Chak De India, and even he got respect only after helping his team fight an ugly brawl with a bunch of goons.

Curiously, there’s also a bit of a Jassi moment in the movie, where Milkha lands in Australia in 1956 and the granddaughter of one of the local coaches develops an instant liking to him. They met a few seconds ago, the guy can’t speak a word of English but she invites him to a night out and about and they end the day in Milkha’s bed. I could have made him a role model for Jassi in ‘Masters of America’. Everything about Milkha screams fast fast fast.

Lastly, the sad state of affairs of Indian athletics. I just looked up the current list of athletic records and found that we have an 800m record standing for 37 years (Sriram Singh), 5000m for 21 years (Bahadur Prasad), Marathon for 35 years (Shivnath Singh), 3000m steeplechase for 32 years, women’s 400m hurdles for 29 years (PT Usha), women’s 100m for 13 years (Rachita Mistry) and 200m for 11 years (Saraswati Saha). Unless Wikipedia is wrong and these are not correct, this is disappointing. Nike comes up with new and advanced technologies every six months that let you run faster and stronger, and we have records standing for decades?

It isn’t entirely unexpected, is it? Would you or me let our child train to be an athlete, knowing very well that you can’t make money and raise your family by just running. Winning an Olympic medal might get you your fifteen minutes of fame and assorted cash awards from state governments, but will it make up for the years of sacrifice that would have gone into getting there? Even if we were to put in the effort, does our country know how to train sportsmen to world class levels? Especially when it is much safer to become an engineer, where you are kindof assured of a decent salary working in a technology company that might even send you onsite.

But then technology has also moved on from Milkha’s time. Just grit and determination will not win you glory on the track anymore. Maybe that’s part of the reason.

All in all, one of the most wonderful movies of recent times. Go watch it to get inspired and do something with your life. I know i am a bit of a sucker for these sporty, motivational movies, but i sure am going to go for a run tonight. So what if i limp for the next week.

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5 Responses to “ Bhaag Milkha Bhaag ”

  1. Liju Philip on August 4, 2013 at 10:36 pm

    Been procrastinating. Time to catch up on the movie.

  2. amrita on August 5, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    Your article will definitely motivate hundred +others to watch the movie soon. thanks


  3. Dota on August 5, 2013 at 10:35 pm

    Indians just don’t have an outdoors culture, which is why India fails at athletics; although technology and state support are also lacking.

    As Aakar Patel explains:

    Sports and athleticism are a product of outdoors cultures, those that engage with the outside world. The Roman general Cincinnatus went back to working on his field after saving his country. He did this for the pleasure of working with his hands. This is unthinkable in India.

    Ours is a culture of servants, of gardeners. We have a contempt of physical work.

    There’s no chance of our excelling at the Olympics, which is a celebration of it.

  4. Ms on August 10, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    Imagine, just running on nothing but a burning desire to get to the finish line. No dope, no drugs, no sponsors, no brand endorsements. True grit. God broke the mold after milkha Singh. RIP indian sports

  5. Geetashree Chatterjee on August 10, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    Nice review. The movie’s on my must watch list.

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