“Marathon Boy” follows the unbelievable story of Budhia Singh, a boy born into the crushing poverty of an Indian slum, sold by his destitute mother, and rescued by a judo coach who runs an orphanage. The coach, Biranchi Das, soon discovers that then-three year-old Budhia has a prodigious talent for running. Jumping on what he sees as a huge opportunity both for himself and the children who depend on him, Das promotes Budhia to the Indian media as a boy wonder, an expression of the unquenchable Indian spirit. By the time he is four, Budhia has run twenty half-marathons and 48 full marathons.
Buoyed by Budhia’s inexhaustible willpower Das stages one hell of a publicity stunt: a 42-mile run, which could set a new world record.
Director Gemma Atwal does a great job, in this HBO production, of allowing the story to play out in front of her without prejudicing it. Though the press notes handed out at Tribeca indicated that Atwal was in fact intimately involved with all the major players in the film, “Marathon Boy” really makes an effort to present an objective picture of a very complex situation. Whatever your opinion of the subjects of the film, “Marathon Boy” is very much worth seeing if only for its commitment to impartial storytelling—something we get far too little of these days.