What’s it like for actors undergoing body transformations?

From Swara Bhaskar in Veere Di Wedding toRanbir Kapoor in Shamshera , actors are often required to alter their bodies to suit on-screen characters. How do they gain 20 kilos, and then lose it all when the film is done?

Published - November 14, 2022 08:42 pm IST

A still from Veere Di Wedding. Photo: Special Arrangement

A still from Veere Di Wedding. Photo: Special Arrangement

In April this year, The Lunchbox actor Nimrat Kaur took to social media to share before-and-after photos of herself, showcasing the body transformation she underwent for Dasvi. While the left photo in the collage showed her with the weight she had put on for the film, the right one showed Nimrat after getting rid of it. Her caption read, “Weigh on it…Swipe left for my thousand words this picture won’t speak.”

The actor followed up this post with a lengthy note. She wrote, “In the age of heightened expectations regarding what we ‘should’ look like, at all times — gender, age and profession no bar, I’m sharing a small chapter from my life that brought with it learnings that shall last a lifetime.” Nimrat added that one needs to mind their own business when it comes to gaining and losing weight.

A still from Shamshera

A still from Shamshera | Photo Credit: Nidhi Adlakha 10484@Chennai

In July, actor Ranbir Kapoor opened up about undergoing physical transformation for his Shamshera, which released earlier this year. In a video posted by Yash Raj Films on Twitter, Ranbir said that the film’s director Karan Malhotra wanted a ‘worker’s body’. “This was physically tough to do. I am a thin guy. So to lose weight is very easy for me, but to put on muscle is harder. It’s very complicated. This whole body building business, it’s something which always confuses me but I guess it’s an occupational hazard,” he said in the clip.

Character demands

Actors undergoing physical transformations for their films isn’t new, but now it seems like more artistes are openly talking about it and using social media to share their experiences. Priyanshu Painyuli, who altered his naturally lean frame to play stout conman Robin Agarwal in the 2020 web series Mirzapur 2, later transformed into a fit Captain Gagan Thakur for Rashmi Rocket.

The actor says that at times, transforming one’s body for a role shapes the personality of the character as well. “Robin in Mirzapur was an easy change, but in Rashmi Rocket, I played an Army officer who had an athletic background. The idea was not to bulk up, but to be really fit,” he says, adding how his trainer Rayo Jilla planned a routine to make the body transformation possible in 12 weeks.  

Vineet Kumar Singh

Vineet Kumar Singh

Vineet Kumar Singh, who bulked up to play aspiring boxer Shravan Kumar Singh in 2017’s Mukkabaaz, was also in the news recently for gaining 10 kilograms to look convincing as the gangster-turned-politician Haroon Shah Ali Baig in the web show Rangbaaz 3. “If the role demands it, it helps to immerse in the character so it looks believable, and you look different from your previous work,” says Vineet.

Experts speak

Film requirements aside, such drastic changes in one’s weight ought to be done with the help of a trainer, and that is exactly what Swara Bhasker did for her recent film Jahaan Chaar Yaar. She played a mother in the movie and chose to be on the heavier side. “I didn’t try to lose weight before shooting, which is something that you generally try to do... get into shape for a role,” she says, adding how her trainer Rohan Sawant helped her in every step of the way.

Swara Bhasker

Swara Bhasker

“Though she gained weight, it was done in a healthy way as I didn’t want to mess a lot with her body composition,” says Rohan, explaining that Swara’s diet mostly included mangoes, bananas, granola, feta cheese, avocado, sweet potatoes, white rice, mutton curry, buckwheat cheese pastas, banana protein smoothies, etc. Most importantly, she didn’t stop exercising. “Her workout schedule included more hypertrophy training. It was done thrice a week. She also did some cardio to gain stamina and endurance to perform her training,” says Rohan.

As for Vineet, he started the process of gaining weight about four months before the shoot for Rangbaaz 3 began. However, he didn’t rely on an expert for this journey. “I designed my own diet chart. At least three meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner) were very filling,” says the actor, also an MD in Ayurveda. As for his exercise routine, he chose not to do too much cardio. “I did surya namaskars after a bit of warm up and basic boxing exercises,” he says.

Monica Chaudhary

Monica Chaudhary

Apharan actor Monica Chaudhary, who agreed to put on 20 kgs for her role in the family drama Salt City, was assisted by fitness trainer Mayur Rane who helped her concentrate on calorie consumption and breakdown. “Her transformation is known as a reverse transformation where we started with a calorie surplus. I put her on a pattern to increase 20 kgs, and then reversed it to a calorie deficit and got her into the best shape possible in about six to seven months. Then she entered the maintenance progressive stage,” he explains.

For exercises, he picked multiple compound ones. “We did them almost daily. Resistance exercises were done every alternate day. Suspension and functional training were done every weekend,” says Mayur, who advises people to attempt this only with the help of an expert.

The healthy way

Integrative nutritionist and health coach Neha Ranglani, who has worked with celebrities like Hina Khan, Himanshu Malhotra, and Neha Bhasin, says that when actors gain weight for a role, it does increase the bad fat in the body. “You must consult an expert and plan your meals. Meals should be high in calories, but nutrient-dense,” she says.

An expert is needed for guidance so that eventually it gets easier to lose the extra weight, She shares. “Such drastic regimes when not done properly can impact your gut health, it can burden your liver, kidney and can lower your energy level.”

Celebrity fitness trainer Shivoham, who advocates healthy ways of gaining or losing weight, says time plays an important role in body transformation. “Sometimes actors don’t have the flexibility of time and they’ve got to work with what they have, so it takes a toll on their mental and physical health,” he says adding that the best way to make changes is by keeping plenty of time aside for training. “This way your body can change and adapt in its natural timeline,” says the expert, who is helping Ranbir Kapoor gain 10 to 12 kg for director Sandeep Reddy Vanga’s Animal.

All over again?

While Vineet and Priyanshu are willing to undergo body transformation again if their characters and scripts require it, Monica says she does not want to put herself through this again. “It was torturous,” she says, adding “I am done with it unless it is really required and if it’s just like 4 or 5 kg. I don’t want to gain 20 kg. It’s very unhealthy... but you never know.”

 Neeraj Goyat poses with Farhan Akhtar

 Neeraj Goyat poses with Farhan Akhtar

Sports stars
For Mukkabaaz, Vineet roped in three-time World Boxing Council (WBC) Asian champion Neeraj Goyat, who is now training Punjabi actress Sonam Bajwa in boxing for her upcoming movie. “I did Mukkabaaz free of cost. It was my first and also a low-budget film. I still remember, while shooting a boxing scene in BHU (Banaras Hindu University), we were sweating because of the scorching weather. There was no air-conditioner, but exchange of conversation, thoughts and ideas with Vineet cooled me down,” recollects Neeraj.
He’s dabbled in Tollywood too. “SS Rajamoli’s son called me for a scene in RRR. I trained Ramcharan for a scene where he was hitting a punching bag. In RRR I did training and choreography as well. It was a 20-25 second scene, which was shot over a span of three days,” he says. When it comes to training, Neeraj tutors actors on the basics of boxing, which takes a minimum of two months, depending on the scene and film. When he choreographs, he decides the punches and the emotions that go along with it. — Inputs by Amarjot Kaur
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