Aaryan Shines in Kabir Khan’s Latest Biopic


The bronze medal won by wrestler Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav of his village at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki makes Murli start dreaming of winning one such medal in wrestling one day…reports Asian Lite News

Sports in any country inspire the young. And Hindi cinema and sports connect so well that as many as eight films are being scripted around this theme almost every year.

In India, judging by the number of sports biopics being made, any athlete or player who has had some glory associated with his or her name, makes an even more moving and motivating saga on celluloid. And the list of such sport stars seems to be growing every year.

Kartik Aaryan’s new film ‘Chandu Champion’ is yet another life story of a champion, this time of Murlikant Petkar, India’s first Paralympic gold medalist. Blending fictional elements into the 143-minute narrative, director Kabir Khan attempts to tell the incredible true story of Petkar, known fondly as Murli. Petkar’s journey, a remarkable example of victory over adversity, deservedly needed to be documented.

Born Murlikant Petkar (Kartik Aaryan) in 1944 in the Peth Islampur region of Sangli, Maharashtra, Murli showed early signs of rebellion if any of his classmates in school so much as laughed at his ambition of winning an Olympic medal some day.

The bronze medal won by wrestler Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav of his village at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki makes Murli start dreaming of winning one such medal in wrestling one day.

Murli’s life is full of obstacles. Teased by his friends for dreaming big, he is nicknamed ‘Chandu Champion’, an epithet for a loser. It only eggs him on to be all the more determined.

His brother Jagannath (Anirudh Dave), who dotes on him, suggests he build his body first and enroll himself for wrestling training at the local akhara. After a foolhardy decision at the wrestling ring, he has no choice but to run away as the local politician sends his men after him to finish him off. That puts an end to Murli’s dream of becoming an Olympic wrestler.

Murli then manages to board a train on which a bunch of athletes are travelling to an Army recruitment camp. It was on this journey that he befriends Jarnail Singh (Bhuvan Arora), who guides him throughout. That journey also results in his joining the Corps of Electronics and Mechanical Engineers (EME) of the Indian Army as a craftsman-jawan.

At EME Secunderabad he trains to become a boxer and his coach, Tiger Ali (Vijay Raaz), who becomes his mentor. But life does not move according to Murli’s well-laid-out plans. He fights the 1965 India-Pakistan war, gets shot, spends two years in hospital and becomes paralysed waist below. He also loses his best friend, Jarnail Singh.

A long-drawn struggle and hindrances follow, but Murli’s spirit of survival and resilience helps him overcome his physical disability to emerge a winner. He takes up swimming and other sports. He plays table tennis at the 1968 Summer Paralympics in Tel Aviv and clears the first round, but doesn’t get much ahead.

At the next Summer Paralympics in Heidelburg, Germany, in 1972, Murli made history by returning home with a gold medal in swimming, becoming the first Indian Olympian to win gold.

‘Chandu Champion’ is now a real champion on the world stage.

Kabir Khan is not new to hits and successes — and his name spells class. To make a film on the life of a man who faced one adversity after another with an undying spirit of resilience should have been easy for a director of his calibre. One expected Khan to dig deeper into the emotional battle, besides his physical transformation, of Murlikant Petkar.

He is ably supported by a brilliant cinematographer Sudeep Chatterjee (Bhansali’s favourite), who adds enough heft to the frames. Whether it is the village terrain, the state-of-the-art athletic tracks, the boxing ring, or the hospital, all come to life through his seasoned lens.

The jarring background score by Julius Packiam as also the songs by Pritam only serve as irritants in a film that demanded pregnant pauses and silences to convey emotions.

Credited to Kabir Khan, Sumit Arora and Sudipto Sarkar as writers, the script is high on melodrama, notably in scenes where it was least needed. Aaryan tries hard to play Murli as best as he can. But he is limited in expressing and communicating the demands of an inner turmoils of a tormented character. It is the poor writing too that restricts his performance.

His transformation into Murlikant Petkar would have been commendable, had he reflected on portraying the character with more dedication. Merely embodying an athlete’s appearance is not enough.

Hindi film actors thrive on getting their physicality meant for a character they portray, right. The rest they leave it to the camera to carry forward.

When Murli participates in the Paralympics as a swimmer, special care is taken to make him look like the world-class swimmers Mark Spitz and Michael Phelps. With short cropped hair, chiseled jawline, and deadpan facial expressions, Aaryan attempts every possible angle to look like a world-class champ. If only he could act!

Film: Chandu Champion (Playing in theatres)

Duration: 143 minutes

Director: Kabir Khan

Cast: Kartil Aaryan, Vijay Raaz, Bhuvan Arora and Yashpal Sharma

Cinematography: Sudeep Chatterjee

Music: Pritam

Rating: **

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