The story of Sumit Arora is much like the protagonist of his latest film “Chandu Champion”, whose underlying theme of a small-town boy who dreamed big struck a chord with the screenwriter. Starring Kartik Aaryan in the titular role, “Chandu Champion” is inspired by the life of India’s first Paralympic gold medallist Murlikant Petkar.

Meerut-born Arora, who co-wrote the script with film’s director Kabir Khan and Sudipto Sarkar, said the story felt like a fable.

“As a writer, I always look for a theme that can resonate with me. I grew up in a small town in Uttar Pradesh, nobody around me had visited Mumbai, forget about working in the film industry.

“When I told people that I want to work in films and be a writer and a filmmaker, they mocked me. When I heard the story of Murlikant Petkar sir, I could connect with its spirit, the idea of a small-town boy with a big dream, and its relentless pursuit felt very personal,” the Meerut-born Arora told PTI in an interview.

Petkar, originally a boxer in the Indian Army, who switched to swimming after losing his legs in the 1965 war, felt like a remarkable life story waiting to be told.

His incredible journey led to India’s first-ever medal in freestyle swimming at the Paralympics in Heidelberg, Germany, in 1972.

“Chandu Champion” marks the second collaboration between Khan and Arora after the 2021 sports-drama “83”.

Arora said he was captivated when Khan first narrated the two-line idea about Petkar during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2021.

“If one would focus on the hardships that he faced, it would look like a depressing story, but if you look at how the guy kept moving forward, it became a fable of sorts,” the writer said, adding they began developing the script post the release of “83”.

As the team delved into Petkar’s life, they encountered limited material available in the public domain and had to rely mostly on the information provided directly by Petkar.

Despite the challenges, they were able to sculpt a compelling narrative, Arora said.

“We wrote around 12 drafts, and because there was very little material available on Murlikant sir, we met the man himself… We spoke to him quite regularly to understand but because it was a lockdown, we would do zoom calls with him. His son would help us set up zoom calls,” the writer recalled.

“Chandu Champion” also starring Vijay Raaz, Rajpal Yadav, and Yashpal Sharma in pivotal roles, is peppered with humour.

“The tone of the story was very important for us. The man never gave up and also defined that he never took hardships as hard as a normal person would. He looked at things in a lighter way. We’ve tried to capture that lightness in the film by having that humour element from childhood to army to his moments with his mentor, played by Vijay Raaz,” Arora said.

The decision to cast Aaryan in the role of Petkar, the protagonist, was made by Khan. According to Arora, Aaryan’s boyish charm and innocence perfectly embodied the essence of the character, aligning with the vision of the film.

“When we met Kartik, we felt that he wanted to give his all to the film. He has done that, he has proved himself. He ventured into an uncharted territory with this film. He had the hunger like Murlikant Petkar to go out into uncharted territory,” he said.

Arora’s creative pursuits include a lineup of captivating shows for OTT platforms, such as “Citadel: Honey Bunny” featuring Varun Dhawan and Samantha Ruth Prabhu, the anticipated second seasons of “Dahaad”, “Guns and Gulaabs”, and the third season of “The Family Man”.

He is also involved in the development of Dhawan’s action-drama film, “Baby John” and a compelling war movie.

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