Stories without end
IT was set to be Slumdog Millionaire in running shoes, with a hero whose prodigious athletic ability was just as bizarre as anything in that Oscar-winning movie.
But there was a major difference: Marathon Boy is real. This is the tale of Budhia Singh, a child from the slums of India, who was running long distances on a daily basis, completing his first marathon at age four in 2005.
“It was both astounding and shocking,” documentary filmmaker Gemma Atwal says. “I’ve run upwards of a dozen marathons and the type of training that Budhia Singh was engaged in seemed extreme, if true.”
Atwal began Marathon Boy as a curio, a bizarre tale of a talented boy. After filming Singh’s life for long enough, with his coach waxing lyrical about the 2012 Olympics, it seemed Atwal was capturing a Bollywood-style story about a slum kid who makes good. Only the dance routines were missing.
“Set in the Indian context,” she says, “this wasn’t a simple story of child exploitation. It’s a story grounded in hope, the hope of a guru and a disciple who could go all the way to fulfil a dream for India.”