Wednesday, July 17, 2024

In Conversation with Padmashri Murlikant Petkar – the athlete on whose life Chandu Champion is based on

Edited by – Robinson Bhuyan (Editor in Chief) 

Interviewed by – Ayushi Sandhya

Written by – Reetika Choudhury 

Murlikant Petkar is a notable Indian athlete who achieved significant recognition for his achievements in Paralympic swimming. He was awarded with the Padma Shri in 2018, for becoming the first individual from the country to win a gold medal at the Paralympics. Enigmatic Horizon brings you an interview with the person where he talks about his journey and shares his insights towards life and sports. 

A movie has been being made based on your life. How do you feel about this? Did you ever imagine it would happen?

I never imagined that a film would be made based on my life. It’s truly a blessing from God and everyone else involved. As you already know, Kabir Khan is directing the film, and Kartik Aaryan will be playing the lead role.

How did Kabir Khan approach you for the movie?

Previously, many actors approached me for this film, including Sushant Singh Rajput, Akshay Kumar, and Shahrukh Khan. However, due to an unfortunate incident, we lost Sushant Singh Rajput. I didn’t want someone older to portray me in my biopic. One day, Kabir Khan came to my house, and I narrated my story to him for about 1-1.5 hours. He expressed his intention to make a biopic film based on my story, with Kartik Aaryan in the lead role. That’s how it all came together.

When you found out that Kartik Aaryan would portray you in the movie, did you feel he would be able to justify the role, or did you have another actor in mind?

No, I didn’t have anyone else in mind besides Kartik Aaryan. My family believed he would be a good fit for my character. He put in a lot of effort to embody my role, such as losing weight and maintaining the physique necessary for the role.

Do you think your movie will be an inspiration to those who are pursuing their careers in sports?

Yes, it will definitely be an inspiration for many. They will come to know about the struggles one had to go through in the Paralympics, which received little coverage at that time. Many will become aware of my story. The film’s casting is based on authenticity; other actors and locations are true to the events that happened to me. It will surely inspire many, shedding light on the struggles I faced as an athlete during those times.

Please tell us about your early life, education, and how you became inspired to pursue sports as a career.

I was born in Peth Islampur on November 1, 1944. When I was around 12 or 13 years old, I used to watch wrestling in our area on my way to school. One day the person who used to make thandai for all the wrestlers was not present and so they asked me to do it. I enjoyed the being there and so I continued doing it. The wrestlers used to drink the thandai, and one day, one of them, who became my coach, asked if I wanted to try wrestling. I agreed and practiced for about a year.

One day, I heard about a wrestling competition in a village called Kameri. I asked my trainer if I could go with them, and he agreed. After getting permission from my father, I participated in the competition. The prizes ranged from 1 to 5 rupees. I won the 1 rupee category, but in the 5-rupee category, I was supposed to lose to the Panchayat’s son. After 11 rounds, I asked my trainer if I should defeat him, and he agreed. This caused a stir among the villagers, and amidst the chaos, the organizer gave me some money and told me to leave. My trainer took me away on a bicycle, gave me something to eat, sent me off to Pune where initially took shelter and studied in an old lady’s (AVA) home for a couple of years and then eventually I stayed at my uncle’s place.

A few years later, I joined the army where I played hockey. When I couldn’t make it to the national level in hockey, I turned to boxing and competed nationally and internationally. During my time in the army, I was posted in Kashmir when China attacked us. I was severely injured, and the doctor recommended swimming for quick recovery.

That’s how my journey in swimming began, leading to victories in the Paralympics and many other awards in various sports. Eventually I decided to take part in the paralympics to pursue my goal of winning a gold medal for my country.

After winning the gold medal in the Paralympics, what changes have you observed in your life?

I have volunteered with many organizations and served as a President of one of them. I have received much respect, love, and blessings. I have guided many players and supported them through various organizations. Personally, I am happy doing this.

Did you receive the same support as a player that you are now providing to them?

At that time, we didn’t get much support, and there was a lot of ignorance towards players with disabilities. We had to collect funds ourselves to be able to play outside.

Do you think that education institutions do not give as much importance to sports as they do to academics?

I think they should give equal importance to both. For example, athletes with disabilities have won many awards, sometimes even more than able-bodied players.

Any advice you want to give to the young players?

If you are a player, then play from the heart. Play with confidence, work hard, and keep practicing.

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