Australia-based Indian filmmaker has got a fan in Arnold Schwarzenegger

On a morning this August, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Conan to many and politician to some, tweeted about a documentary on Kenneth ‘Flex’ Wheeler, considered the most genetically gifted body builder of all time.

The tweet was instantly followed by millions of his fans, some from India too, although many had no idea that the man behind the film, Dare2Dream, was Abhijit Chattaraj, an Indian filmmaker settled in Australia.

Abhijit Chattaraj
Abhijit Chattaraj

Chattaraj, who grew up in the subcontinent, eating spicy fare, watching backfiring trucks and belching lorries in cacophonous Calcutta (it was not Kolkata then) in the late ’90s, was over the moon. A single tweet had triggered a virtual riot on the web, with millions downloading the film for a view.

“Indians should watch this one, Wheeler is a four-time Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic champion, who fought poverty, dyslexia and child abuse to secure his place in the international arena,” says Chattaraj on email.

The now retired International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness (IFBB) body builder from California, who was once a police officer, won the annual professional men’s body-building contest run by the IFBB four times straight. Despite being in a car accident in 1994 that could have left him paralytic, he fought depression resulting from it, to train from scratch and returned to the top.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, Flex Wheeler and former bodybuilder and entrepreneur Joe Weider seen in an archival image.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Flex Wheeler and former bodybuilder and entrepreneur Joe Weider seen in an archival image.

Chattaraj, who grew up with Schwarzenegger posters in his bedroom, once worked for IBM and Microsoft in America before he learnt visual story-telling through a course in photography at the New York Institute of Photography. He had a storyboard in mind even before he began working on the film.

The idea had come to him from the editor of Music and Fitness magazine, Australia, who had 60 hours of archival material on Flex. “I was fascinated by his story. Schwarzenegger described him as having the most perfect male physique,” says Chattaraj.

In the film, Schwarzenegger appears in archival footage, providing commentary on Flex’s stage performance and conducting interviews.

Chattaraj is not unduly worried that most Indians may have given the film a miss, probably because they are far away from participating in the Arnold Schwar-zenegger Classic and “body building is a minuscule sport in India”. But he is hopeful he will some day create a film specifically for the Indian audience.

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