What would you do for a glass of milk? Win a 10 km cross-country race and ultimately become a three-time Olympian? That’s what Milkha Singh did. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag says the story of this great man- the only Indian male athlete to win an individual medal in the Commonwealth Games.
Milkha Singh was orphaned during the partition when his parents, a brother and two sisters were killed. He saw them die before his own eyes. He escaped the violence and came to Delhi, where he lived with his married sister. What followed is an inspiring tale of hard work and sheer determination. He gained entrance to the Indian Army in his fourth attempt. There, he came sixth in a cross-country for new recruits and was selected for athletic training. His dedication and sincere effort saw him break the national record for 400m. Soon, he was representing India in the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. He didn’t cross the heats stage. This didn’t put him down. Instead, he re-doubled his efforts. He set the national records for 200m and 400m in the National Games of India, Cuttack 1958. Gold medals for the same events at the Asian Games followed. Then came the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games held in Britain. He remains, till date the only Indian male to have achieved this feat. When the time came for the 1960 Rome Olympic Games, he was among the favourites. He led the race initially but slowed down his pace, allowing three others to pass him. The race saw all four athletes breaking world and Olympic records. The Age noted- “Milkha Singh is the only Indian to have broken an Olympic track record. Unfortunately he was the fourth man to do so in the same race.” He came over this disappointment soon though. He was persuaded by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to overcome his past memories and participate in the friendly games held in Pakistan in 1960. It was here that his inspired run, defeating the Pakistani athlete Abdul Khaliq, earned him the title “Flying Sikh”. This becomes a fitting climax to the inspirational movie.
That such a man lives is hard to believe. His answer to every defeat was two words- hard work. With an excellent acting performance by Farhan Akhtar and soul-stirring music by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, the movie brings alive the story of the finest champion of Indian sports. Watch it when you are down and it’ll bring your spirits alive!