Visual Overload Detracts from ‘Chandu Champion’s’ Heartfelt Narrative

Sometimes a movie can be so laden with advertising visuals that after a point, you stop caring for what it’s about. At first glance, “Chandu Champion,” directed by Kabir Khan and featuring Kartik Aaryan and Vijay Raaz, comes across as a brilliantly lit, meticulously mounted film, thanks to the skills of cinematographer Sudeep Chatterjee, known for his work on “Chak De India” and his association with the Sanjay Leela Bhansali stable. However, this initially captivating visual experience soon reveals itself to be more of a distraction than a compliment to the storyline.

From slow-motion falls of opponent boxers inside the ring to an artistic Warli painting-like silhouette of people atop a train, the film is packed with visual gulaq that detracts from the core narrative. As you marvel at these elaborate shots, you might find yourself less and less invested in the story itself. The film’s substance and message seem to fade into the background, buried under layers of cinematic spectacle.

The story revolves around a sportsperson who not only excelled in boxing but also went on to achieve international recognition in swimming at the Paralympics. And yet, this incredible tale of overcoming adversity feels like a missed opportunity. The hero in question, Murlikant Petkar, a Padma Shri awardee, seems to have been forgotten by the public until recently, presenting filmmakers with the perfect canvas to depict an exemplary life.

However, the filmmakers seem oblivious to the nuances that could have made this biopic a gripping tale. Instead, the film monotonously strings together events from the life and times of Petkar, slowly sapping the viewer’s interest with its simplistic and sedative storytelling, a trend seen in other sports-based biographical films such as “Mary Kom” and “Maidaan.” This heavy-handed method of storytelling leaves little room for core conflict, character development, or emotional depth, aspects that are essential to elevate a biopic from a mere sequence of events to an engrossing narrative.

One of the critical flaws of “Chandu Champion” is its focus on a single character while every other individual in the film exists merely to serve his sporting achievements. It isolates the protagonist’s journey from the world around him rather than embedding it in a rich, engaging backdrop with multiple interwoven characters and conflicts. For instance, in the movie “Paan Singh Tomar,” the audience is transported to an entirely different world, immersed in the socio-political atmosphere of the time, something that “Chandu Champion” fails to achieve.

It’s especially disappointing considering Kabir Khan’s portfolio of work—films like “New York,” “83,” “Bajrangi Bhaijaan,” and “Tubelight” did not suffer from such narrative myopia.

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. Khan’s directional oeuvre typically includes richer, more nuanced storytelling, making the shortcomings of “Chandu Champion” all the more glaring.

The lead actor, Kartik Aaryan, delivers a performance marked by a stunning physical transformation. His impressive physique, zero percent body fat, and six-pack abs for the boxing and swimming segments are evident of his dedication. This chiseled appearance, however, feels at odds with Murlikant Petkar’s real-life persona—raising questions about the authenticity of the portrayal. Regardless, Aaryan’s effort is commendable and elicits admiration, yet this ultimately seems wasted on an uninspired script.

The frustration grows when even the period setting feels half-baked. The film is set in the 1960s, a time of significant cultural and political changes globally and in India. Yet, the script fails to evoke the essence of that era, making the temporal backdrop seem almost incidental rather than integral to the narrative.

Kartik Aaryan undoubtedly commands a legion of fans, with numerous Instagram reels celebrating him and his “Fanception.” His massive fan following justifies the heavy investment in this biopic. Yet, one can’t help but wonder if the film’s impressive budget could have been better spent on refining its storyline and character arcs rather than focusing primarily on its ostentatious production values.

In the end, “Chandu Champion” leaves you with a sense of loss—not just of time, but of a compelling story that could have been. After enduring the visual dazzle with little emotional connection, one might find oneself longing for a soothing head massage—or in this case, a ‘champi’—to ease the headache induced by the overwhelming yet empty portrayal of an inspirational hero.

Despite Kartik Aaryan’s unwavering effort and dedication, the question remains: for what purpose, when the film fails to engage and evoke? Not all applause-worthy transformations can compensate for a lackluster narrative. “Chandu Champion” serves as a stark reminder of the importance of a well-rounded, emotionally rich story that goes beyond surface-level beauty.

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