‘Chandu Champion’ Ending Explained & Movie Recap: Who Is Muralikant Petkar?

There is no dearth of sports dramas coming out of the Hindi or other film industries. There are only a few that resonate with the emotion behind sports and how much it affects men and women. Maidaan, starring Ajay Devgn, was released a few months ago and was about the life of a real-life coach of the Indian football team. A few years ago, Pa. Ranjith delivered Sarpatta Parambarai, one of the best boxing movies to be made in India. Apart from these two, there was always Shimit Amin’s Chak De India, a Shah Rukh Khan starrer that has become a cult favorite. These and many other successful films paved the way for filmmakers to present the stories of unsung athletes who have achieved so much yet were forgotten as time passed. Through Chandu Champion, director-writer Kabir Khan pays a tribute to one such unsung hero, Muralikant Petkar, whose story needs to be heard.

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Spoilers Ahead


Why did Muralikant want the Arjuna Award?

Muralikant Petkar, an aging man with his medals, approached a local police station in his hometown, Peth Islampur, with his son to file a case of fraud against the current president of India and many others of the past. The local station SI, Sachin Tamble, was not sure why the old man wanted to file this case. On further talking with Muralikant Petkar, the person says he needed the Arjuna Award so that his village gets recognition, and therefore the state or the central government will help in building basic infrastructure. Every police officer and thief was fascinated by this old man and wanted to hear more from him about his life and decide if he was eligible for the Arjuna Award.

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What was Muralikant’s childhood like?

Muralikant Petkar was born in the interior of Maharashtra and was fascinated by the first Indian to ever win an Olympic bronze medal. Tired of his friends bullying him and referring to him as Chandu Champion, aka “Loser,” the young boy joined a local akhada after much persistence in the hope it would help him become an Olympian. As his training began, Murali grew up watching his fellow wrestlers and sometimes practicing with them. His strength was on display when he defeated a local rich man’s son when he was asked by his trainer to go easy on the boy. This caused major friction in the village, which forced him to run away and join the Indian army.


Did the army give Muralikant many opportunities in sports?

The Indian army was not a piece of cake for Muralikant Petkar, yet the friend he made, Karnail Singh, made things easier for him. He realized the army would give him the training and facilities needed to get into the Olympics. His vigor and passion made him and his seniors approach Tiger Ali, another Indian military officer training young men to become boxers. Since Murali’s background was in wrestling, his nonstop training and his determination to win a medal helped him become eligible boxer for the International Military Games in Tokyo. He was tremendously helped by Tiger Ali, who saw a fire in him to become someone. 

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What happened in Tokyo?

Murali, Karnail, and their coach, Tiger Ali, along with the full contingent, were headed to Tokyo. The boxers were carried away by the wins they were experiencing. Murali won against the world champion from Turkey, and this led to him being interviewed for a local channel. His mind seeking success and validation led to his first major defeat in the tournament, and that was the end of his time in Tokyo, which upset his coach, Tiger Ali, the most. 


Was the 1965 war tragic for Muralikant?

Muralikant put his defeat behind him and focused on the upcoming Asian Games, and that was his stepping stone towards being selected for the Olympics. He approached Tiger Ali to be his coach for the Asian Games, but the man rejected his proposal as he did not see the fire in Murali anymore. The man had given up hope for Murali, and had lost faith in himself ever producing a champion that would make the country proud. They were stationed in Kashmir at that time, and moments after their conversation, they were attacked by the Pakistani Air Force. The air bombardment was brutal and led to Karnail’s death, while Tiger Ali was severely injured as well. Murali was unfortunately hit by nine bullets. He woke up two years later, only to find out his legs didn’t move as there was a bullet lodged near his spine, which caused partial paralysis. 

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Did Muralikant’s family abandon him?

Murali was set to be operated on and treated at INHS Asvini, an armed-forces hospital in Mumbai. His family was informed of his surgery. The surgery was not successful, as the bullet was lodged in a peculiar position that could further cause full-body paralysis. Murali was not ready for this major change in life, and as a sportsperson, his legs were crucial to him moving forward in life. His brother abandoned Murali, stating that their aging mother, he, and his father wouldn’t be financially providing for his treatment back in their hometown, which was far away from basic medical facilities. Murali decided to stay back at INHS Asvini for further treatment and physiotherapy. Dejected by the fact that he may never move again in life, Murali also attempted to commit suicide, but he survived and won a local lottery. Surviving many ordeals so including a suicide attempt gave him the encouragement to live for himself and move on towards making his body agile. 


How did Muralikant decide to join the Paralympics?

Murali had begun swimming lessons and was soon visited by his coach, Tiger Ali, who had survived the war. Tiger Ali encouraged him to follow in the footsteps of his hero, Dara Singh, the wrestler who at the age of 40 was still pursuing the title of world champion. Even though Murali was skeptical and gave up hope he would ever be able to represent his country at the Olympics, it was Tiger Ali who instilled the positivity in him to become a part of the Paralympics, a special Olympics meant for the differently abled. Tiger Ali took over his swimming training which was the only sport that did not require much movement of the legs. 

Murali was trained competently, yet the Indian government, which was facing an economic crunch after the Pakistan War of 1971, initially refused to send him to the Paralympics. A dejected Murali begged the Olympic committee to look at him as a normal man with dreams to achieve greatness instead of giving him pity treatment. The sportsperson in him felt betrayed by people who were supposed to back him up. His heartfelt words most likely did the job, and he was eventually given the chance to represent India at the 1972 Munich Paralympics in swimming.


What happened during the Munich Olympics?

At the infamous 1972 Munich Olympics, Murali and Tiger Ali were witnesses to Black September taking over the Israeli contingent and killing eleven athletes. Murali had sadly injured himself on the way to save himself from the gunfire as he was in the wheelchair, taking an early morning spin. The cancellation of the Munich Olympics had him dejected, yet the Paralympics were redirected to Heidelberg, Germany, in the same year.

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Did the local journalist publish Muralikant’s story?

Back in 2017, the police officers and the thief at the station came up with a plan to approach a journalist who would be interested in covering the story of a fascinating person they had come across. They felt Muralikant Petkar deserved recognition along with an Arjuna Award. The police personnel introduced the older Murali to a photographer, who learned the man was funding the road repair in his town. This further pushed the photographer to approach a feature writer to publish an article on him, whose story needed to be shared. The journalist did her research and found out that many records of Muralikant Petkar had not been computerized, which led to the man being forgotten. The journalist’s connection to the Indian army’s higher ranks helped her gather plenty of useful information that the central government needed to know about. 


Did Muralikant win gold at the Paralympics?

At the 1972 Heidelberg Paralympics, Muralikant Petkar was the least favorite, yet his determination to enter the finals gave him the confidence to perform well in his category. Muralikant entered the finals, and the man was the first Indian to represent the country in swimming for this global sports event. During the semifinal swim, Murali accidentally hit his head at the endpoint of the pool. This caused his head injury to flare up, as he did not wake up the next day of the final race. Muralikant went unconscious before Tiger Ali woke him and realized the man needed to be treated. Tiger Ali was a diligent coach who only wanted Murali to succeed, but more importantly, the man wanted his student to be alive. The Olympics were crucial, but Tiger had to make sure the injury did not hamper his performance during the finals. They had worked too hard to reach this stage, and Tiger Ali did not want to risk it. He was willing to call off his participation in the race, but Murali stopped him. 

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Murali had been raised believing that he was a loser, and this was the time to prove his bullies wrong. He felt every person doubting their capabilities might come out of the negativity if Murali took part in the race. Even if he were not to win the medal, his representation matters, and that would encourage many to follow their passion. Murali wanted to be an inspiration. Tiger Ali heard him and allowed him to be a part of history. Muralikant Petkar won gold that day, and his family back in Sangli were hearing the great news on the radio while the whole village was cheering for him. They were proud of him for finally achieving his dream of winning gold while representing India at the Olympics. The family was probably not proud of how they’d treated him, but they were happy he carved his destiny and found a way to remain relevant and an inspiration.


Was Muralikant Petkar given the Arjuna Award?

Years later, in 2017, the local journalist published an article on Muralikant Petkar and the achievements he had made for the country that seemed to have been forgotten with time. This subplot threw light on the fact that athletes who represented our country at international sporting events and won medals were eventually forgotten. Social media currently allows them to remain relevant, but back in the 1970s and 1980s, there was no way to find out where those athletes were or what they were up to. This article breathed life into Muralikant Petkar’s existence because it gave him the exposure he needed for the upliftment of the village. As a man who was given a lot of facilities growing up to become a champion, he felt it was his duty to do something for the people of the village.

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Muralikant Petkar was informed he would be given a Padma Shri for his contribution to bringing glory to the country and the fact that people like him needed to be deemed heroes and idolized. Muralikant was the kind of person who swam against the tide (pun intended) and proved the world wrong as he succeeded. The movie ends with footage of real-life Muralikant receiving Padma Shri from President Ram Nath Kovind in 2018. 

In Chandu Champion‘s ending, Muralikant returned to his hometown to be received with a thunderous welcome, which would only remind him and the audience of the reception they witnessed the first Indian Olympian got. Muralikant was happy to be at that stage as young children were now looking up to him. His plan to inspire a generation had now been fulfilled.

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Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan is a cinema enthusiast, and a part time film blogger. An ex public relations executive, films has been a major part of her life since the day she watched The Godfather – Part 1. If you ask her, cinema is reality. Cinema is an escape route. Cinema is time traveling. Cinema is entertainment. Smriti enjoys reading about cinema, she loves to know about cinema and finding out trivia of films and television shows, and from time to time indulges in fan theories.

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