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Chandu Champion

Farhad Dalal
Farhad Dalal
3.5 Star popcorn reviewss


Another film this weekend that has caught me at a crucial phase in my life, almost coaxing me to never give up on my dreams! Chandu Champion marked the return of mainstream cinema in 2024, which until this point has been bleak even with the releases drying out week after week. The marked the collaboration of Kartik Aaryan and Kabir Khan for the very first time, and it was something that made me stand up and take notice. Kartik Aaryan was probably at his lowest phase with the debacle of Love Aaj Kal 2 wherein he was heavily criticized for his performance(and rightly so). But unlike some of his peers who simply refuse to improve their craft, here was an actor who was quietly working on his craft and slowly improving as an actor. Even though he may not quite be a finished product, but atleast here was an individual who was willing to slog it out by opting for a variety of roles that slowly began propelling his career upwards. 

On the other hand was Kabir Khan, a director whom I have adored for his sensibilities as a filmmaker. I strongly believe that he hasn’t made a single bad film yet(and that includes Tubelight too) but unfortunately hasn’t tasted success even with some of his most amazing films in the form of 83. But his craft is unique while he continues to share his love for borders(something that I shall further elaborate in my subsequent section). So there was a lot going for Chandu Champion, a film that was based on the incredible life of Padmashri Murlikant Petkar who was the first Indian to win a gold medal for swimming at the 1974 Paralympics. So then does Chandu Champion manage to impress, let’s find out.

Story & Screenplay

Based on the incredible true story of Padmashri award winner Murlikant Petkar, Chandu Champion follows the story of ups and downs in the life of an individual who refuses to give up in pursuit of his dreams. The story here is inspiring and something that made for a great cinematic experience. I really appreciate the makers and their team for digging out subjects on individuals that may not quite be in the public eye but account for a sense of inspiration for generations to come. If it was Shrikant last month which was an inspirational tale of a visually disabled entrepreneur, Chandu Champion follows a similar suit of an individual, differentially disabled after the 1965 war, who goes on to represent the country at the 4th Paralympics. And if ever there was a doubt on the caliber of a country that refused to back down after Independence, then the same is perfectly represented in this incredible tale of resilience over the screenplay of about 140 odd minutes of screentime. 

Slowly but surely, I do believe that filmmakers are cracking the template of a biopic which has a better chance of succeeding if it is in the non-linear format. So like was the case with Chamkila, the drama begins with the introduction of a now aging protagonist who visits a police station in order to file a complaint against the President of India for overseeing his achievement and resenting from awarding him the prestigeous Arjuna Award. And thus begins an extended flashback beginning from his lifetime at an impressionable age to the person that he is in the current timeline. The writing here did not seem fragmented because of the format attempted wherein you are acquainted with the core dream of the protagonist, that forms the base of the rest of the drama to follow. The screenplay does exude strongly of the Bhaag Milkha Bhaag vibes even as the focus shifts to the army camp even as the protagonist meets people who help in keeping his dream alive! 

The proceedings have a playful tone to them which I must say was controlled quite well given that it wasn’t in line with the story if you were to read it on the internet. But it was heartening to see that the makers were conscious of this fact, and it did account for a pleasant and enjoyable watch. The drama oscillates between being a sports drama and elements of war, given that the drama was set against the backdrop of events leading to the 1965 war. The portions of the protagonist in the ring were superbly executed and almost gave me a reminiscence of the Martin Scorsese film Raging Bull. Even though the entire sequence played out in a rather cliched manner, it did account for an exhilarating watch leading to a heartbreak. The portions leading up to the halfway mark did showcase Kabir Khan’s loved for borders, a theme that has been a consistent feature in his filmography. The war sequence was expertly executed as well, setting things perfectly for the second hour, particularly true if you weren’t privy to the story of the protagonist in real life. 

The one area that the film briefly lags and falters in, is in the post interval portions that do tend to amp up the emotional quotient of the film but not all of them land as they ought to have. There seemed to be a slight manipulation in play to arouse a sense of empathy for the protagonist when all odds turn against him, only for him to rise again. And while the fall isn’t exactly on point, the rise definitely hits the sweet spot particularly with the preparations underway that sees the protagonist rise from the ashes. It is here also that the writers briefly explore the politics of the land related to sporting that was a common thread in the film Maidaan too. I did feel that the events leading to the final act were rousing enough although very cliched but the final act needed to be fleshed out a little more in order to end the film on an absolute high. For instance, I had liked how Kabir Khan had slowed things down in the finale of 83, almost giving an impression that time had come to a stand still. That magic for me was missing at the end, in an otherwise well written screenplay of a real life champion!

Dialogues, Music & Direction

The dialogues are filled with gems that are so well written that go perfectly in sync with the different moods of the drama. The playful lines are often superseded by inspirational one-liners that absolutely hit home. The music is excellent and quite rousing when integrated at crucial junctures in the drama. The BGM is good but it still could have been a notch better for the emotions to hit you! The cinematography is excellent with the kind of ambience that it creates with the drama. Be it the sequence in the ring that reminded me of Raging Bull with its impeccable lighting, or even the portions involving training or some of the emotional sequences wherein the camera was set close enough to peek into the psyche of the protagonist. The editing is incredibly good and another unsung hero of the film. Firstly, it didn’t allow the drama to be fragmented while incorporating amazing match cuts that did contribute to the high technical prowess of the film. Director Kabir Khan manages to score again although this wouldn’t go done as one of his best works. But like a handful of filmmakers, he is a part of the clan wherein he is incredibly good even while not being at his best. He does create an endearing tale that is inspiring by controlling the playful tone of the drama rather well. There are moments of lapse particularly with the abrupt finale that didn’t quite allow the emotions to take over, but still the director does create several heartwarming moments that drive home the narrative from an emotional standpoint. The direction is pretty good.


The performances are pretty good by the ensemble cast. Hemangi Kavi as the protagonist’s mother is amazing to watch particularly towards the end wherein she beautifully highlights the emotional high of her family. Aniruddh Dave as Jagannath has his moments to shine. Rajpal Yadav as Topaz is pretty good, Dilnaz Irani is hilarious despite a limited screentime. Sonali Kulkarni as the journalist is earnest and sincere, a stark contrast to the media personnel doing the rounds at the moment. Brijendra Kala as the thief and Shreyas Talpade as Inspector Sachin Kamble are such fine actors with an impeccable sense of comic timing that shines through and through. Bhagyashri Borse as Nayantara has a radiating screen presence in a job done really well. Yashpal Sharma as Uttam Singh is first rate and scores well in a character with comedic undertones. Vijay Raaz as Tiger Ali will go down as one of my favourite characters from the film wherein he starts off on a lighter note(with the tone of the character) but slowly raises the intensity to provide an inspirational act. Bhuvan Arora is such a fine actor and his sincerity and earnestness shines as Karnail Singh. I am so glad that an actor of his talent is now getting chances to showcase his prowess. 

Kartik Aaryan has always been improving as an actor and here as Murlikant Petkar, he yet again delivers a good performance. You can see the amount of blood and sweat given by him in his act but the scope of improvement does lie in adding a little more soul to his performance. For instance, the emotional scenes needed a little more spark for the emotions to reach the viewers. The next step for Kartik Aaryan the actor should be in owing a performance so much so that the viewers should get an impression, that no one was better suited for the role other than Kartik. Here, I could still imagine the likes of Rajkummar Rao or Vicky Kaushal eating up this role amd leaving no crumbs behind. This is not to say that Kartik was bad, he was really good, but the time has arrived to graduate to the next level in what has been an incredible journey thus far for him. Kartik – Champion Hai Tu, you can do this!


Boasting of good performances, Chandu Champion is an inspiring and moving tale of a real life champion that makes for a good watch. Another film this weekend that has caught me at a crucial phase in my life, almost coaxing me to never give up on my dreams! Champion Hai Main…..Available in a theatre near you.

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