‘Chandu Champion’ : Kartik Aaryan Gives Best performance in this Sports Biopic

By Renuka Vyavahare

Story: Based on a true story, the film celebrates the fascinating and surrealistic life of Murlikant Petkar, an army man and athlete, who won India its first Paralympic gold in 1972. His achievements and remarkable tryst with destiny lurked in anonymity, until he decided to claim the honour and respect he deserved.

Review: We often hear that it’s wise to leave the table if respect is not served. But what if you decide to sit at the table, compelling people to acknowledge your presence? Victory belongs to the most tenacious after all. Kabir Khan’s film celebrates this thought. It’s about building yourself as a champion, even when the world labels you as a chandu, chomu or looks at you as a laughing stock.

Oscillating between past and present, the story takes us through Petkar’s life, right from the 1950’s to 2018, when he was finally awarded the Padma Shri. We discover that the man who nurtured an Olympic dream since his childhood has a strange love-hate relationship with fate and God. He survived when he didn’t hope he would and was left devastated when he least expected. However, never defeated.

The film has Forrest Gump’s free flowing nature and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’s essence to it, but unlike the two, this one feels a tad rebellious without a pertinent cause or conflict. Being ridiculed unleashes Petkar’s aggression, giving an outlet to his talent and persistence. He dared to question the naysayers, ‘Hasta kayko hai’, which ignited the fire within him. Medal se izzat milti hai, he tells himself.

Most sports biopics follow athletes who pursue a certain sport and excel in it against the odds. Kabir Khan’s film feels different because it’s about a man who desperately wants an Olympic medal, for which he tries everything – Wrestling, boxing and swimming. Sounds preposterous and ridiculously ambitious but that’s the fun of it. Petkar makes you wonder if being delusional to a certain level helps. Only then can you see yourself as a champion, even when no one thinks you are in the reckoning.

In many ways, Kartik Aaryan’s ambition to be taken seriously as an actor, coincides with the inner turmoil of the character he essays here. You almost hear him say, “Ae hasta kayko hai? Actor hai main actor.” Kabir Khan’s choice of leading man is a clever casting move. Kartik shows considerable restraint, spontaneity and brings a certain ease to his character that we haven’t seen from him before. He is impressively uninhibited in ‘Satyanaas’, a well-shot train song. Along with undergoing physical transformation, he does justice to the character’s emotional arc. Bhuvan Arora deserves a special mention as Petkar’s likeable sidekick. Rajpal Yadav and Vijay Raaz add a lot of depth to the story with their presence. For a sports drama, the music could have been far more inspiring though.

Kabir Khan loves to make feel good cinema and CC (Chandu Champion) falls into that category, too. Be it Salman Khan in Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Ranveer Singh as Kapil Dev in 83 or Kartik as Petkar, he extracts the best out of his mainstream actors. He loves to infuse humour, sports and earnestness into his stories, but he can dig deeper than that. There’s more focus on what happened to a person than their inner conflict. Things get monotonous and tiring beyond a point, making the climax less effective. CC is engaging and heartwarming even, but it seems to follow a template. Staying the course is fine, but breaking the rules is not a bad idea. — TNN