• Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Arts and Culture

Kartik Aryan: Rise of an unbreakable Champion

The young Bollywood actor talks about his new movie Chandu Champion, directed by Kabir Khan.

Kartik Aaryan and stills from Chandu Champion

By: Asjad Nazir

THERE perhaps isn’t a young Bollywood leading man under 40 with more momentum behind him than Kartik Aaryan.

The 33-year-old has gone from being an outsider to becoming red hot property in Hindi cinema, with high-profile producers wanting to sign him for major movies.

The self-made star adds to his growing body of diverse work with big budget biopic Chandu Champion, which sees him portray India’s first Paralympics gold medallist Murlikant Petkar.

The Kabir Khan-directed drama – which is in cinemas now – about the human spirit and overcoming adversity to achieve glory, saw Aaryan go through a remarkable physical transformation. He also went on a deeply emotional journey to tell the story of a soldier who is badly injured during war and unexpectedly finds a new lease of life through sports.

The actor is clearly proud of the film filled with astonishing moments and was happy to discuss it with Eastern Eye in central London. He also talked about his own remarkable journey, the secret be hind his Chandu Champion chiselled physique, what keeps him going on days when he feels like giving up, key inspiration and not being affected by the pressure of high expectations.

 How would you sum up your extraordinary journey so far? 

Unbelievable. I think it’s like a dream, which I’m living. And I’m just grateful that I’ve gotten so many opportunities. I’m really, really lucky to be enjoying working and doing what I really love.

Kartik Aaryan in Chandu Champion Look 2 scaled
Aryan in ‘Chandu Champion’

But it doesn’t seem as if success has changed you in any way. You have remained grounded. 

I’ve always been the same, I think. Success and failure, they don’t change me because I know they are temporary. You have to take failures with a pinch of salt, and enjoy success for the time being, but not too much.

Has success informed your choices because there is a real unpredictability in your work?

(Laughs) Yeah, I’m trying more and more stuff because before this, I wasn’t getting so many opportunities. I was doing whatever I could, and would give my 200 per cent to it, because they were not so many offers on the plate. But now I can be choosy. I can choose what I want to. I’m choosing stuff that maybe I would like to watch.

When I’m actually saying yes to a film and doing it, I just see it from the point of view of the audience. Or if I were to see the film, whether I would like to go to the theatre to watch it or not. So, I’m deciding on that basis. And on the fact if I’ll enjoy this work, doing this character and being a part of this genre.

 How did you react when you were offered Chandu Champion, which is based on a true story?

When I read about the heroic sportsman Murlikant Petkar you play, my jaw dropped. That’s so nice to hear. Even my jaw dropped at the first narration because I didn’t know his story. And it’s so unbelievable that this story existed. He is an unsung hero. So, my reaction was just this – I asked Kabir sir, was it true? Or was it a work of fiction? He said it’s true and all there if you do a search on him.

You are a good actor. But at any point, did you think, I can’t do this because it’s such a multi-layered and demanding role?  

From the start, I was thinking that. First, I was overwhelmed by the fact that Kabir sir had offered me this film, but then I was just taken aback after the narration. There were so many things I had to learn and unlearn. A lot of things were associated with the physical and training aspects. There were also different skill sets I had to learn. Will I be able to do justice to this role? So those were the questions which used to arise, but eventually, we got to that point. I’m happy that we were able to go this far.

What was most challenging, the physical transformation or the emotional journey?

I would say it’s a mix of both. I can’t choose, because even the emotional journey is associated with the physical one. So, I would say both physically and mentally, this film has been the toughest of my career. And yeah, I feel really proud when I see I’ve been a part of something like Chandu Champion.

Kartik Aaryan in Chandu Champion Look 5

One thing that comes across in the film’s trailer is that it has many great moments. Is there one that you really love?  

I really love the part when people are mockingly calling him Chandu. Then he picks up the other guy, and he says that “Chandu nahin, champion hoon main” (not Chandu, I am a champion). I really love that part because it’s an emotion and story anybody could relate to. Where you’re maybe ridiculed or mocked by a lot of people, and they don’t believe in you, but your belief is high. This is what the story of the film is about. It’s about the story of human triumph. I think that’s one part, which I really like.

Would you say it’s a very timely film because the key message seems to be about not giving up and right now, everybody needs that?  

Yeah, everybody needs it. It’s high time that we don’t give up and refuse to surrender. And this is the kind of film that gets that message across in whatever way possible. So, I’m really happy that this kind of film has come my way. It’s inspired me also in a lot of ways.

 Your physical transformation for this movie has been remarkable. Is there a top fitness tip that you can give us?

A fitness tip I would give is that abs are made in the kitchen. I gave up everything, not just sugar, but lots of other stuff. I used to eat lots of rice, parathas, rotis and was into sweets. I had to give that all up. I couldn’t have done what I did without that sacrifice. I had a major sleep pattern problem. I was almost an insomniac before this film. And now I can’t do without eight hours of sleep.

 How do you feel about the fact that a lot of people see you as the future of Hindi cinema. Do all the plaudits and praise put pressure on you? 

It doesn’t actually. I’m just doing my job. There are instances where a lot of nice adjectives are added to your name, and people have high hopes on you. I just want to work, be zoned into that work and be true to it. I’m really happy that people are enjoying the fact that I’m focusing on different genres. That I’m tapping into exciting stories, diverse characters, and different film arenas, which no one would think I could be a part of. So, these things don’t put pressure on me. In fact, I enjoy it. I like the fact that they are giving me so much validation, by putting high hopes on me. And I know, I will do justice to whatever film I try to do, because otherwise I wouldn’t do them.

Kartik aaryan 13 236FTP scaled
Kartik Aaryan

 What inspires you?  

I think my family itself. I mean, my mother has really inspired me because I have seen her journey and struggles in life and how she has always been. She always overpowered those struggles in her life. I think, somewhere down the line, I have absorbed that behaviour, and I refuse to give up or surrender.

 Chandu Champion is about the human spirit. What keeps you going on days that you feel like wanting to give up? 

I try to look back from where I began, and where I’ve reached now. When you go into that zone where it’s all relative, is when you start feeling like, you have at least achieved something from nothing. So, that keeps me going.

 Chandu Champion is in cinemas now. 

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