“Naan vazharthukku odarthillai, naan odarthukku thaan vazharen”
“I don’t run to live, I live to run”
– Jagadheesan M, Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon Men’s Open Winner 2014
From the enduring British classic, ‘Chariots of Fire’ (1981) to ‘Running on the Sun’ (2000), a documentary on the infamous Badwater Ultramarathon in Death Valley, Colorado – as a sport, running has always been able to translate beautifully on to the big screen.
Perhaps, it is because running is so deeply personal, and accessible to everyone. Sure, you can enjoy running with friends and running groups, but at the end of the day, everyone runs their own run. There’s a lot of training that goes on behind the scenes, but on race day, it all comes down to one’s body, a pair of shoes and the road ahead. Anyone can be a runner. All it takes is for one to start running.
In ‘Two Feet To Fly’, India’s running community gets its own celebration. Over the last decade, running has exploded in the country, with multiple running events every weekend and hundreds of running groups. Made up of thousands of individual runners, of all ages and from all walks of life, the running community is rich with so many personal, transformative running stories.
‘Two feet To fly’ follows 6 such runners; Vishwanathan Jayaraman – a runner in his 60s who kicked a smoking addiction, and went on to run a marathon a day for a whole year, Jegadheesan M – a runner who escaped the confines of a humble background, to win the Men’s open category at the 2014 SCMM, Sayuri Dalvi – a Mumbai-based runner and mother, who has emerged triumphant over personal turmoil, Raghavendra Satish Peri – who runs undaunted, with a sighted runner, Harishankar Krishnaswami – who embarked on his running journey for weight loss, only to emerge with a complete physical transformation, and Nandita Chakraborty – a Delhi runner bravely battling Sarcoidosis, a chronic condition.
On 29 November, a cool Saturday evening, an intimate group of runners were treated to a screening at the one of Mumbai’s enduring art-deco theatres – Eros Cinema. A small audience felt perfectly apt for a film that has been woven together from people’s deeply personal stories of joy, hardship and triumph. The film stays away from grandiose soundtracks, dramatic shots of finish lines being crossed and platitudes. The beauty of the film lies in how the camera has been allowed to capture wonderfully poignant moments – like Vishwanathan Jayaraman running along an endless highway, as a child calls out to him, his smoking addiction left far behind. Or the scenes of Sayuri and her son, Vihaan bonding, content in their own joyful universe. The delightful sequence of Harishankar practicing Carnatic music with his family, and that of Nandita, her voice determinedly strongly, singing ‘I have a Dream’, despite the condition affecting her vocal chords – the triumph of the film lies in moments like these.
Jegadheesan, recounting how he manages to follow a proper dietary regimen as much as he can, and Raghavendra, recalling the bullying he endured in his childhood, are stark reminders of how poverty and being differently-abled are significant challenges for so many in India. However, stories like Harishankar’s complete physical transformation, and Sayuri being a single mother to a child with Austism, are a testimony to the courage and strength that every one of us is capable of.
In a film industry known for churning out films with bloated budgets, ‘Two Feet to Fly’ is a little gem of an exception. Entirely crowd-funded, with no corporate sponsorship
Ashok Nath, veteran runner and trustee of the India Amateur Runners Trust which has produced the film along with ‘In the Brilliant White’ and the production house, Curley Street Media, says about the crowd-funding process, “To ensure we didn’t compromise on the integrity of this pioneering domestic true film, we didn’t see any sponsorship but spread the word with our running community to contribute to its production. Hundreds of runners from across India showed faith in our endeavor and contributed generously to make this venture a success.”
What motivated them to make this film? Ashok says, “We are all “broken vases” glued together, some more strongly than others but no one is immune from the pressures and pains of life. Unfortunately many individuals allow their problems to overcome themselves, and literally dig a hole in the ground. ‘Two Feet To Fly’ showcases 6 inspiring stories of normal individuals facing problems but winning in life through their attachment to running. And we hope that viewers will use this to inspire them to take up running and allow its positive influence to improve their lives.”
As the credits rolled, in the palpable hush in the screening room, it was evident that everyone could experience the cathartic power of the film. Like all great films on sport, ‘Two Feet to Fly’ transcends being a documentary on running, and takes us on a deeply personal human journey.
‘Two Feet To Fly’ is a community’s celebration, made up of thousands of private victories. It is a beautiful collage pieced together from poignant moments which remind us what makes running, and indeed life, so beautiful.