Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra
Madhav Roy Kapur
P. S. Bharathi
The Race of My Life by Milkha Singh and Sonia Sanwalka
The movie begins with the Flying Sikh’s heart-breaking loss at the Rome Olympics in the 400 metres. Milkha Singh is far ahead of the field but turns his head to see where his rivals are and loses vital seconds. The result is a fourth place finish; yet, he too breaks the Olympic record along with the medallists.
Milkha is haunted by ghosts of his childhood past from Govindpura, in the then Punjab Province, British India—now Muzaffargarh District, Pakistan.
Milkha’s parents, a brother and two sisters were slaughtered before his eyes in the violence that ensued following the partition of British India.
The film takes off with Milkha’s return to India and his refusal to lead a contingent of Indian athletes to Pakistan to race against Abdul Khaliq—-the fastest man in Asia.
Milkha’s back story is narrated by Pavan Malhotra as Hawaldar Gurudev Singh, Milkha’s initial coach, and how he made the journey from a refugee camp to becoming the foremost Indian sportsperson of his generation and arguably of all time.
The movie is gripping while depicting life in a refugee camp, Milkha’s initiation into a life of petty crime but meanders in the scenes portraying his first love Biro and his moments with her.
To prove himself worthy of Biro, Milkha quits his criminal ways and joins the army.
The young Sardar starts running to gain an extra glass of milk, two eggs and to be excused from regular drill.
Milkha is soon on his way to becoming one of India’s top athletes and makes the cut for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.
There he meets and falls for Stella, played by Rebecca Breeds, the grand-daughter of his Australian technical coach. Breeds is charming, delightful and lights up the screen with her cameo.
The Games, however, are a disaster for Milkha on the field. He loses his race and vows to make good by breaking the existing world record of 45.90 seconds.
He trains hard over the next four years with unyielding determination and even rejects a romantic overture from Indian Olympic swimmer Perizaad.
Milkha takes the world by storm in the run-up to the Rome Olympics and is one the pre-Games favourites for the 400 metres.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Milkha makes the journey across the border for the Friendly Games against Pakistan after being persuaded by Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
The highlight of the movie is his visit back to his village Govindpura where he exorcises demons of the past and is reunited with his boyhood friend Sampreet.
The Friendly Games race against Abdul Khaliq is a formality with Singh much too strong and powerful for his opponents.
The film ends with an adult Milkha Singh completing a victory lap visualizing his boyish self running alongside him.
Overall, an enjoyable movie especially for sports fans and a ‘Don’t miss’ if you’re a follower of Indian athletics.