“Bhaag Milkha Bhaag” (run Milkha run), shouted Milkha’s father, as he lay dying, at the hands of the militants, and Milkha kept running, all the way across the Indian border, from his village in Pakistan. The devastation and carnage that resulted when the British left a deeply divided and broken county, displaced an estimated 12 to 15 million people, and over 1.5 million people are estimated to have lost their lives, in the mass violence. It probably left wounds so deep, trauma so inexplicable that one cannot imagine how people put their lives back together. Here is one story of Milkha Singh. The movie unfolds, against the backdrop of tragic massacre of Milkha Singh’s family, who chose to stay in their homeland and fight the enemy, rather than run. The movie is based on a true story and you can google the details of how young Milkha (Jabtej Singh) and his sister (Divya Dutta) with her family, manage to escape, how Milkha got into trouble with the law, but then found inspiration in love, which propelled him to a career in the Indian army, where he took up running, eventually winning scores of medals on behalf of the country. (A little side note, both Jabtej Singh and Divya Dutta have done an awesome job in the side roles of junior Milkha and his sister, respectively).
Eventually, Milkha Singh, superbly played by Farhan Akhtar, faced a dilemma that would bring him face to face with his past. India’s most inconic athlete who ran away from Pakistan and had been running ever since, was summoned by the President himself, Mr. Nehru, to return back to Pakistan, to lead his team in running. Indian officials implored, cajoled, and pleaded Milkha Singh to represent India, in Pakistan, during the friendly games, to mark the occasion of coming together of both countries.
Based on a script written by Prasoon Joshi, the film is produced and directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra. It is albeit a bit long and I would have liked to see it a little short. However, the cast is superb, the songs are beautiful and the true story of Milkha Singh, known as the “Flying Singh”, a moniker given by Pakistan’s General Ayub Khan, is tragic and inspiring. The devastation of India Pakistan breakup, the roads littered with broken limbs and broken dreams, left such deep wounds, that countries and people sought to burry the tragedy and forget about it, rather than talk about it and learn from it. It is only now that this subject is getting attention. Recently, San Francisco Bay Area’s local NAATAK company (www.naatak.org) produced an incredible play “Jisne Lahore Dekhya Nahin Vo Janmya Hi Nahin” http://bit.ly/11PhK5q and 1947 Partition Archives http://www.1947partitionarchive.org/, a non profit group, is building an archive of true life stories impacted by the partition.
Always buried in the tragedy, there is a story of inspiration, love that was transforming, a character that was built, achievement that was remarkable, past that was revisited and reconciled with. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, is one such story and Milkha is said to have publicly opined that the movie is a fairly accurate depiction of his life up to 1962, where the movie ends. Don’t miss it. I give it a 4.8 on a 5 point scale, with 5 being excellent.