From Bullets to Medals: Know the Journey of Murlikant Petkar who Inspired the Chandu Champion Movie

During the 1965 Indo-Pak war, an Army personal and a sportsman Murlikant Petkar was hit by nine bullets, paralysing him forever but despite the injury, he went on to create a world record that inspired many. This is his story.

Hitanshu Bhatt
New Update
Murlikant Petkar

The Kabir Khan-directed Chandu Champion movie was released in theatres today and it has already received praise for the character it has chosen to portray the biopic. The Chandu in this movie is none other than paralympic gold medalist Murlikant Petkar. He is truly a beacon of inspiration not only for specially-abled sports people but for all the athletes. Petkar is one of the early trendsetters in sports in India and is not meant to give up no matter what. Unfortunately, he is not remembered by many people for his contribution to Indian sports. So much so that while receiving the Padma Shree Award in 2018, which was after 52 years of his historical win, he said, "After my world record in the 1972 Paralympics, I was waiting for the day when the government will honour me for my achievement.” Let’s look back at the story of a person who ignited the spark of the ‘never-say-die attitude’ in many. 

Padma Shree Murlikant Petkar
 Murlikant Petkar receiving the Padma Shree Award

Murlikant Petkar was born on November 1, 1944, in Peth Islampur, Sangli, Maharashtra. A sports enthusiast since childhood, he excelled in hockey and wrestling. He joined the Indian Army’s Boys Battalion to avoid trouble after defeating the village head’s son in wrestling. In the Indian Army, he was a tradesman known as Jawan in the Corps of Electronics and Mechanical Engineers (EME). Despite his commitment to the nation he continued to shine in sports, representing the Indian Army at the International Services Sports Meet in Tokyo in 1964 and winning the national boxing title in 1965.  

Murlikant Petkar Swimming
Murlikant Petkar Swimming

Everything was going well for the Army man but one day changed it all. During the 1965 Indo-Pak war, Petkar was severely injured, hit by nine bullets, one of which remained lodged in his spine forever. He fell from the wall after being hit by the bullets and a Pakistani truck passed from his back. This injury paralysed him from the knees down, leaving him in a coma for nearly a year and bedridden for two years. “When I was in Delhi hospital I used to think that I have been captivated by Pakistani soldiers and been tortured there,” said Murlikant in an interview with NDTV. Despite this traumatising phase, he took up swimming on his doctor's advice to aid his recovery, which soon became his passion. “Swimming gave a new meaning to my life. I trained harder and participated in the Paralympics after doing well at the national level,” he says.

Murlikant Petkar with his medals
Murlikant Petkar with his accolades (Pune Mirror)

After going through the tides of time and a lot of effort, he competed in the 1968 Paralympics in table tennis and swimming. It was a historic moment when he became India's first Paralympic gold medalist. He created a world record with a time of 37.33 seconds in a 50-meter freestyle swimming event in the 1972 Summer Paralympics in Heidelberg, Germany. His remarkable career includes 12 international gold medals, 34 national golds, and 40 state-level golds. He also clinched a gold medal at the 1970 Common Wealth Paraplegic Games in Edinburgh, Scotland. His skills extended beyond swimming as he played a variety of sports like slalom, javelin, and precision javelin throw. It's incredible that Petkar not only completed but also reached the finals in all of these sports. 

Petkar’s journey of resilience and perseverance will always be etched in the minds of Indians after the story is out to the world. People from all over the fraternity take his journey as an example to fight no matter what. 

Chandu Champion movie chandu champion Journey of Murlikant Petkar India's first Paralympic gold medalist