In 2004, when body transformations as a form of movie publicity had still not caught on in Bollywood, Batman’s Christian Bale had shed 63 pounds for his role in The Machinist. For four months, Bale followed the most draconian of diets – he ate one can of tuna and one apple a day. This was finished off with black coffee and cigarettes. Matthew McConaughey, known for his hunky physique dropped over 40 pounds to play the role of Roy Woodroof, an AIDS patient. “The amount of energy I lost from the neck down, I gained from the neck up,” he said at the time. “I’ve seen people dying from HIV and cancer, and the last thing to go is the neck up. They are just savage from the neck up – their body is withering away but they are like a starving baby eagle in the nest waiting for the worm. So during filming, I had plenty of energy. I needed three hours less sleep a night.”
However, in Bollywood, such trends had not been witnessed, at least among the men. While transformations were always a Bollywood favourite, what with Rekha completely transforming herself, the new millennium’s first Bollywood body transformation came with Kareena Kapoor Khan and Tashan. The actress started the trend of size zero, which was unheard of in the Hindi film industry. Tashan needed a publicity boost, probably because it was a terrible film, and Kapoor Khan delivered. There were media rumours that the actress was forever fainting on the sets but, of course, that’s just gossip. For the men in Bollywood, they never seemed to have to undergo any body transformation. An Amitabh Bachchan has always looked the same – in fact, the only time he’s undergone any sort of transformation is for his role in Paa and that was all prosthetics. Even Garam Dharam aka Dharmendra never had abs – and even if he did, you couldn’t make it out from under the carpet of hair on his body. Think about that scene where Smita Patil and Bachchan Senior are romancing in the rain. Patil’s red saree is almost see-through and she looks sensuous as hell but Bachchan merely gets by with a grunt here and there. Shah Rukh Khan could play a Badshah or a dance enthusiast and have the same body for both roles. As long as you weren’t obscenely fat, Bollywood didn’t care.
Well, not anymore.
For men, they have Aamir Khan to blame. The actor took on a massive transformation journey for his blockbuster film, Ghajini. Khan was always Bollywood’s eternal chocolate boy and for him to get ripped like a truck driving gangster was insane. His body was covered in tattoos and there was that famous Ghajini haircut which was the most replicated hairstyle since Salman Khan’s Tere Naam days. “Aamir told me to help him build the best body that nobody’s ever seen and after watching the results, I think I have achieved what is next to impossible. He has a lot of muscle count now vis-a-vis earlier and the day we reached around 1,000 stomach crunches in 55 minutes, I was on cloud nine,” Khan’s fitness trainer for Ghajini, Satya Chaurasia told DNA at the time.
After Ghajini, Khan had to transform his body into that of a college student who was half in age. Yes, we’re talking about 3 Idiots. Seeing the ₹300 crores the film made, it’s safe to say that whatever Khan did was a success. After 3 Idiots, Khan went partially nude for PK and hence, had to put his body through the grind once again. The biggest surprise was not Ghajini, however. It was Dangal. Everybody remembers that image of Khan with a huge belly next to Khan with abs. From weighing 96 kgs for the second half of the film, Khan dropped to 68 kgs with abs in a matter of five months for the first half of the movie. To achieve this, Khan did chest exercises such as dumbbell pullovers and bench presses, shoulder exercises like military press and upright rows, back exercises like deadlifts and seated cable rows and arm exercises like barbell curls and dumbbell kickbacks. And, let’s not forget Dhoom 3 where Khan’s body went head-to-head with Katrina Kaif’s physique.
However, if we’re truly talking about body transformations, while it would seem like Aamir Khan started the trend, it was actually another Khan who did it first. The 2007 movie, Om Shanti Om, was the year’s biggest blockbuster. It gave us Deepika Padukone, Deewangi Deewangi and a ripped SRK. Khan had already shown his bum in Maya Memsaab in 1993 but nobody talks about that movie, anymore. It was Om Shanti Om that first saw a shirtless SRK. Sure, we had seen sneak peeks of his regular physique over the years but Dard-E-Disco was more of an item number for men. Visuals of SRK dripping wet with abs went viral. Since then, Khan has ensured that he’s maintained his physique, knowing full well that this is what sells.
Talking about six-pack abs, we come to Bollywood’s very own Greek God, Hrithik Roshan. Roshan, along with Salman Khan, made Indian men take up fitness as a passion. Hell, the dude made his debut in a black mesh T-shirt. Sure, he is a great actor but tickets were sold based on his green eyes and solid body. And then, Guzaarish happened. People will do anything to star in a Sanjay Leela Bhansali movie and this one required Roshan to ditch his beefcake body for that of a paraplegic. Seeing the Dhoom actor on the screen with a body like that, came as a massive shocker. “I ate loads of fried stuff such as samosas, batata vada after 15 years and put on weight. I got a 36 inch waist for the first time in my life,” the actor had told India Today. He even let go of his strict gym routine for Super 30 which required him to look like a common man. For War, the actor brought back the Hrithik Roshan we had always aspired to look like. His War character had muscles in places you didn’t think there would be muscles.
Rajkummar Rao is another male actor who is known to be extremely dedicated to his craft. For Trapped, Rao had to look super skinny and then he got ripped for Behen Teri Hogi. Then, for Hansal Mehta’s Bose, Rao had to pile on 11 kgs. “For all my previous films — City Lights, Aligarh and of course Trapped— I’ve been asked to lose weight. So I was delighted when I was asked to gain weight. I have been binging on pizzas, Bengali sweets and junk food for the last one month and a half and will continue this routine till August. I stopped working out two months ago,” the actor had told Mumbai Mirror then.
Just like Bale’s role in The Machinist, actor Randeep Hooda had to drop 18 kgs in 28 days for Sarbjit! Talk about dedication. For the role, Hooda went on a strictly monitored starvation diet where he only drank water and black coffee. For the flashback sequences, he had to put on 20 kgs which wasn’t a blast either.
In today’s Bollywood, male actors have to take as much care of their bodies as female actors do. It goes without saying that almost every two years, we’ll see a male actor undergoing a severe body transformation. Shahid Kapoor had to also do it for Kabir Singh where he’s hot as hell and then has a belly for the scenes where he’s become a druggie and an alcoholic. It’s the norm nowadays, a far cry from the Bollywood of the 80s and 90s.
[Header Image Credits: Randeep Hooda]