I proudly dedicate this post to Milkha Singh and to the cast & crew of the film Bhaag Milkha Bhaag.
This post is my compilation of the 25 Lessons that I Saw & I Learnt from Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, the 2013 Hindi Film.
Directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag is based on an interpretation of the life of Milkha Singh, an Indian athlete who was a world champion runner and an Olympian. The ‘Flying Sikh’ won with élan- 77 of the 80 races he ran! The film shows the Blood, Sweat, Tears that went into shaping the Champion and how the Legend earned his place under the sun.
Bhaag Milkha Bhaag film has the following lessons for you and me-
1-Be honest about your background, dare to show your true colours, be real like Coal
“Koyla Kaala Hai, Chattano ne Paala Hai; Andar Kaala Baahar Kaala, Pur Sachcha Hai Saala”
– Prasoon Joshi, Lyricist, Screenplay & Story-Writer of Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (Coal is Tough & Black- both inside & outside; but, it’s Real & Honest)
2-Just set goals by deciding what you want at that point of time & then run for the purpose!
Milkha Singh runs to attain different goals at different phases of his life. At first, young Milkha runs in the blazing sun on the hot sands from school just to reach home early. Then, he runs for his life, at the behest of his father, to escape from the horse-rider-attackers during India’s partition. He runs after he beats up his brother-in-law. He runs to dodge getting caught stealing coal from the train. He runs in the Army Cross Country Race as he wants the privilege of earning a mug full of Milk, 2 eggs & pardon from exercise! He runs for India's Blazer & for his self-respect. He runs for the Medals and for making India proud...
3-Success needs Inspiration, Support, And Expert Training & Guidance
Milkha Singh’s ladylove, Biro, inspires him to earn an honest living and ‘become somebody’ in his life. His sister, Isri Kaur, is always a pillar of strength for him; even sells her ear-rings to bail him out. His friend does not ‘disturb’ his training to inform Milkha about Biro’s wedding. Milkha Singh’s coaches, Gurudev Singh and Ranveer Singh play the part of the jewelers who recognize his worth & shape the gem!
4-Earn things for your need; don’t even try or eye other’s belongings with greed
Milkha Singh falls in love at first sight with India’s Blazer. He understands that it exudes respect. However, just because he checks out the Champion, Sher Singh Rana’s Blazer, Milkha Singh is attacked, his clothes are ripped off and he is humiliated. His Coach/Guruji Gurudev Singh slaps him and tells him that he can’t get it “ainvaye”(just like that), he has to work hard and earn it!
5-Nothing is impossible to the mind that believes!
After the humiliation, when his Guruji challenges him if he can defeat the current champion, Milkha Singh expresses unflinching confidence & faith. His Guruji assures him that he can beat 100s of such champions!
6-Life is not a bed of roses, there are thorns & stones
In the first race for the Blazer, Milkha Singh loses as a stone on the track severely injures his bare feet. Yet, his effort & talent gets noticed by the Superiors and he is selected for the main race. His Guruji tells him that he has to train in such a way that no ‘Kankad-Patthar’ (stone) can harm him.
7-Learn to get used to and make friends with challenges with time
Milkha Singh is uncomfortable in his new pair of Sports Shoes. Milkha Singh wants to run barefoot rather than struggle with the Shoes! Coach Ranveer Singh says, “Aaj Jinse Lad Rahe Ho, Kal Wo Acche Dost Honge” (With what you are struggling today, they will be your good friends tomorrow).
8-Real champion is the one who wins fair and square
Perhaps believing ‘All is fair in love and war’, the Indian record-holder and his gang attack Milkha Singh the night before the all-important race. However, undaunted by physical pain or Coach’s advice, Milkha Singh still runs, breaks the National record and proves who the real champion is!
9-Learn to let go and move on
On realizing that his ladylove was married, Milkha Singh’s dream of a future with her is shattered. Milkha Singh lets go off the pretty red Dupatta, the gift he had bought for Biro. Such a symbolic moment when ‘Hawa mein udta jaye, laal dupatta mulmul ka…’ Close the chapter and just keep running- “Bas Tu Bhaag Milkha”.
10-No one can harm the one whom God protects
Milkha Singh makes the observation “Jake Rakhe Saiyan Maar Sake Na Koyi” aboard his first flight as he is scared! But, this is true for his entire life. He is saved while almost his entire family is wiped out during Partition. He survives attacks from jealous contenders and also from his severe training.
11-No need to act smart to impress anyone. Be yourself- People will still fall in love with you & be your fan!
Milkha Singh is his real simple and innocent self when he’s in Australia. He doesn’t even understand English answering “Milkha Singh” when asked if he’s “relaxing”! Still, his Australian Technical Coach’s grand-daughter, Stella takes an instant fancy to him.
12-Accept mistakes & learn from failures & defeats; Use them as strengths to succeed & win & attain great feats
Milkha Singh loses the qualifying race in 1956 Melbourne Olympics. He realizes that losing focus and spending time with Stella for personal pleasure didn’t help him to win the race.
13-Champions train when the world sleeps
One night, a Senior Officer spots Milkha Singh running with the purpose- practicing to get selected! When everyone in the aircraft, on way back home from Australia, is asleep, Milkha Singh wakes his Coach up to know what the World Record timing for 400 metres race is.
14-Success is not easy- needs years of hard-work, focus, courage, grit, discipline, perseverance, sacrifice, passion, perspiration, dedication, determination…
Milkha Singh starts out by seriously working out and wringing his sweat into a Mug and soon graduates to doing the same using a Bucket! His Coach, Ranveer Singh says, a sportsperson needs ‘Jazbaat, Discipline, Tapasya’ (Passion, Discipline, Penance) He adopts extreme pressure with intense training everyday! Vomiting blood and collapsing in exhaustion don’t stop him from getting up & tirelessly running with a ‘tyre’ tied around his waist, skipping with weights attached to his legs, running over hills…
15-Success needs 100% Attention & Concentration & 0% Distraction & Temptation!
Milkha Singh does not reciprocate the feelings of Perizaad, a female National Swimming Champion. He frankly tells her what his aim is.
16-Be Grateful, Humble & Grounded even after Success
Milkha Singh gifts his sister new gold ear-rings to express gratitude as she had sold her previous ones for him. After his wins, Milkha Singh touches the feet of his Coaches acknowledging their key roles in his life. Out of respect, he even makes his Coach Gurudev Singh wear his medal, showing that his Coach deserves it & is responsible for his win!
17-India comes first. Learn to put our Country’s pride & honour above individual-interest
Milkha Singh is in a moral dilemma about visiting Pakistan for the Indo-Pak Peace Friendly Games. Pt.Jawaharlal Nehru’s explanation convinces him to gain strength to confront his past and lead the Indian Contingent.
18-Pride comes before a fall
This is a universal truth- border no bar! We find how both Indian (Sher Singh Rana) & Pakistan (Abdul Khaliq) champions lose to Milkha Singh! Sher Singh Rana is too proud of his India’s Blazer and tells Milkha Singh,“Humare jaise kuch Champions ko milta hai”(Some Champions like me get this.) Abdul Khaliq is cocksure about his win in the press-conference in Pakistan!
19-Records are meant to be broken
Milkha Singh is determined to better the World Record for 400 metres. He burns the Air-India Tissue-paper on which his coach has written “45.9” seconds. This is symbolic to break the mental-block that the figure might have. He achieves his target by clocking 45.8 seconds!
20-Success is the best revenge
In spite of his Guruji’s pleas, Milkha Singh does not even name or complain against the ‘Champion’ runner & his friends who harm him before the important selection-race. Rather, he turns up at the race to shock the same people & lower their face! Pakistan’s Coach and star-player, Abdul Khaliq try to hurtfully ignite Milkha’s past Pak-links and emotions. Milkha Singh does not say anything in retaliation! He just runs in races & lets his wins speak!
21-Talent is honored everywhere, irrespective of Borders
An astounded Pakistan’s President, General Ayub Khan, proudly presents the title of ‘The Flying Sikh’ to Milkha Singh. He tells Milkha Singh, "You didn't run today, you flew." Good performance wins over hearts of all, on any side of the Border!
22-Don’t turn back. Run races focusing on the finish-line
During India’s Partition, when the killers on horseback attack them, Milkha Singh’s father says-‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’ and asks him not to turn back. Still, Milkha Singh turns to see the unfortunate slaughtering of his father. In the 1960 Rome Olympics, this turning back costs Milkha Singh & India an Olympic medal.
23-We can’t choose from where we originate from, but we can choose where we wish to head to
Milkha Singh’s story from modest origins in a tiny village, Gobindpura, is proof that with hope, confidence and effort, we can go a long way, stay ahead, attain international fame and live life fully!
24-Share lessons and experiences to inspire the world
Milkha Singh is a noble soul to have shared his true-life-story, knowing fully well that it may be scrutinized and criticized. However, it serves as a wealth of learning for all. If we learn from his experience and adopt “Hardwork, Willpower & Dedication”, we too can make our lives a success. Hats off to you, Milkha Singh!
25-“Lives of great men all remind us that we can make our lives sublime...And departing leave behind us footprints on the sands of time…”
Farhan Akhtar ably portrays the character of Milkha Singh by actually following Milkha Singh’s above principles! The film shows how an actor can so convincingly step into the shoes of a legend onscreen by literally ‘stretching’ himself and strenuously ‘working out’ for the role…2500 ab crunches a day to play Milkha! Small wonder, Milkha Singh complimented him, “Every nuance, every mannerism is right. You have become Milkha Singh!” Congratulations, Farhan Akhtar!