Kartik Aaryan on Physical and Mental Transformation for Bollywood Sports Drama ‘Chandu Champion’: ‘It’s All About Willpower’

Bollywood star Kartik Aaryan has undergone a remarkable transformation for his latest film “Chandu Champion.”

Directed by Kabir Khan (“’83”), the film is a biopic of Murlikant Petkar, who became India’s first Paralympics gold medalist in 1972. Petkar served as a soldier in the 1965 India-Pakistan war and sustained injuries that left him physically impaired. He overcame these and became a champion sportsman across several disciplines.

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“There were so many skill sets that were required for the character, swimming, boxing, wrestling, and he [Petkar] was very good in all of them. I had problems going into the deep end of the swimming pool, because I didn’t know how to swim professionally,” Aaryan told Variety. “And I never imagined that I would do a film where I would play a character who would be swimming like Murlikant Petkar used to.”

The actor went through a dramatic physical transformation during a bootcamp that lasted 18 months, losing a significant percentage of his body fat for the role. “A lot of prep was required for the skill sets, for the body transformation, one needs to have a lot of patience, and a lot of mental balance. I had never been in this situation – I was doing romantic films or comedy films. But this was the first time that I was doing something like this where I had to do a war sequence, I had to do wresting and whatnot,” Aaryan, whose recent hits include rom-com “Satyaprem Ki Katha” and horror-comedy “Bhool Bhulaiyaa 2,” said.

The mental aspect of the transformation was equally demanding and in this Aaryan was greatly aided by Khan. “I was intrigued what Murlikant Petkar’s thought process would be. And Kabir-sir used to always tell me that it’s all about the willpower. And that’s the one line of the film also – the man who refused to surrender basically, in any circumstances in any given situation, how no matter how hard or tough it is,” Aaryan said.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, Aaryan does not belong to a Bollywood dynasty. The son of doctor parents, he hails from Gwalior, central India. To pursue his dream of being a Bollywood star he had to relocate to Mumbai, where the Hindi film industry is based. After facing several rejections, Aaryan stumbled upon a casting call for debutant director Luv Ranjan’s “Pyaar Ka Punchnama” (2011) on Facebook.

In the male-bonding comedy, Aaryan was cast as one of the three leads. It proved to be a sleeper hit and its 2015 sequel “Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2” was also a success. Aaryan’s breakout film was 2018’s comic love triangle “Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety,” also directed by Ranjan, which was one of the biggest hits of the year.

“I’m someone who’s who’s really come from the outside world. And for me to do a role like this is is a dream and I really related to the one line of the film, which is the man who refused to surrender. So for me this was actually playing a role of a lifetime,” Aaryan said. “It’s like a reward for me playing a role as big as ‘Chandu Champion.'”

Next up for Aaryan is “Bhool Bhulaiyaa 3,” which is on the verge of completion and is due a release this fall during the Diwali holiday frame. He will commence shooting a film directed by Anurag Basu in August.

“Chandu Champion,” produced by Nadiadwala Grandson Entertainment and Kabir Khan Films, releases theatrically worldwide on June 14. It is one of the biggest releases of Aaryan’s career, opening day-and-date in 70 countries on 1,250 screens across 1,000 locations.

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