Kabir Khan says 83 failure left him depressed, reveals why he did another sports biopic in Chandu Champion | Exclusive

Kabir Khan talks about his upcoming Kartik Aaryan-starrer Chandu Champion and how the box office failure of 83 left him broken

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Kabir Khan says 83 failure left him depressed, reveals why he did another sports biopic in Chandu Champion | Exclusive
Kabir Khan


It’s been three long years since a Kabir Khan film was last in theatres. After 83, the director is returning with another film based on a true story from the world of sports. Chandu Champion is the biopic of soldier-turned-para athlete Murlikant Petkar. Ahead of the film’s release, Khan talks to DNA about his expectations from the film, the process behind its making, and the baggage of 83’s box office failure.

Murlikant Petkar, who has inspired Chandu Champion, lived a storied life. He was a dangal champion who enlisted in the Army to achieve his Olympic dream and became a champion boxer. He surived nine bullet wounds in the 1965 Indo-Pakistan War but was paralysed. After that, he won a gold in the Paralympic Games having turned a swimmer. Kabir Khan says the presence of so much drama in his life made his job easier as a filmmaker. “The fact that he is hugely dramatic, it makes you sit up and take notice that it is a great advantage. The challenge is to take that drama forward and not let it slip and fall when you are narrating the story of this man,” says Khan.

Like Chandu Champion, his last film 83 was a true story from the world of sports. It narrated the journey of the Indian cricket team’s first triumph at the World Cup in 1983. But the hugely anticipated film was a box office failure due to the lockdowns enforced in the wake of Covid-19’s third wave in India. Khan recalls, “What happened with 83 is where the strength and conviction of a filmmaker is tested. Having been in this industry for so many years, I know what works for an audience when it is coming from me. So with 83, I will be honest, it was very depressing when it happened. I personally feel that till date, craftwise it was my best film. Then it hit this roadblock where we were not being able to release and when we released, we couldn’t have chosen a worse day.”

Khan admits that the box office failure of 83 hit him hard. “I was depressed about it for about a month or two. Then suddenly, the film arrived on OTT and a literal tsunami of reactions that came. It made me realise kisi ne dekhi hi nahin thi abhi tak (nobody had seen it till now),” he says. But the filmmaker found strength to move on because he looked beyond box office number as a metric to judge the film.

The director explains, “Then, I looked back at my other films and I realised I had forgotten the money my earlier films had made. I only remember the kind of responses I got. That is how 83 will be judged in history. It is one of my most loved films. It’s been four years but I still don’t wake up and not have messages in my phone about 83.”

Many would have scoffed at picking a similar film for their next venture after the failure of one, but not Kabir Khan. “Logic would have said don’t pick up Chandu Champion. It’s also a true story, a sports biopic. What happened to 83 at the box office should have made me try something else,” he admits, but then adds, “But no! This film gives me goosebumps every time I think about it. It’s compelling me to make this. That is the gut instinct I trusted before, and that is the gut instinct I will stick to and continue.”

Chandu Champion stars Kartik Aaryan in the lead role along with Bhuvan Arora, Yashpal Sharma, Vijay Raaz, Rajpal Yadav, and Palak Lalwani. The Kabir Khan directorial releases in theatres on June 14.

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