Beyond song and dance: How actors train for their roles as sports persons

Gone are the days when acting in Bollywood was primarily about mouthing dialogues and getting the song/dance sequences right. Today, a number of films have come up - many of them biopics on sports personalities - which require actors to get out of their comfort zones and go through vigorous training in order to get into the skin of the character that they are portraying. While the actual personalities whom they are playing have been training in their particular field for years, our actors only get a few months of preparation, and are required to look like professionals.  Hence, it is not just the actors and directors who have to get their equations correct, the trainers, physiotherapists, coaches all become integral parts of the production process.

We take a look at how our actors have trained in different disciplines to prepare for their roles:

Dangal: Mr. Perfectionist, Aamir Khan, is known to go the extra mile while preparing for all his roles, and with his latest, Dangal, he has taken perfection to a whole new level. Apart from gaining around 20 kilos for the film, where he portrays wrestler Mahavir Phogat, Khan also has been going through rigorous workout sessions to get the stamina and strength required for a wrestler. The actor has been doing heavy leg workouts in the gym, as his character requires him to work more on his lower body. Khan has also been spending hours learning the game, and learnt a wrestling move – dhobi pachad - in ten days.

Sultan: To prepare for his role of a wrestler in his upcoming movie, Sultan, Salman Khan has been training in wrestling and mixed martial arts in daily four-hour rigorous sessions, under Los Angeles based action director, Larnell Stoval. Khan plays a 40 year old wrestler in Sultan, which is due for an Eid release, this year. Khan’s leading lady, Anushka Sharma has also been training in wrestling. She plays a Haryani wrestler, and has been undergoing a rigorous six week long training programme so that she can look and act the part.

Mary Kom: While Mary Kom had been boxing for years, Priyanka Chopra had to perfect her moves in just a few months. To portray the role of the five times boxing champion in the biopic, Chopra went through a grueling four and a half months of prep which consisted of rigorous workouts and training. She was trained by fitness expert Samir Jaura, who had the task of ensuring that she possessed the right physique of a boxer. To bring in a level of authenticity to the film, Chopra fought against professional boxers.

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag: To portray the role of the Flying Sikh in the biopic Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Farhan Akhtar had to sweat it out for 13 months in order to get the perfect lean, muscular, body structure, the agility of the best sprinter the country has ever seen, and the stamina and endurance levels required for the sport.  His fitness trainer for the film was Samir Jaura and his athletics trainer was Melvyn Crasto, who had trained 2010 Asian Games 3,000m steeplechase gold medalist, Sudha Singh. His training ensured that he got the perfect gait and stride length of a sprinter, while his gym sessions involved Cross Fit, circuit training, boxing, apart from the regular cardio and weight training.

Chak De India: Shah Rukh Khan, who has captained his hockey, football and cricket teams while in college, played the role of Kabir Khan, former captain of the Indian men’s national field-hockey team and coach of the Indian national women’s team in the iconic 2007 film, Chak De India. The film was said to be inspired by Mir Ranjan Negi, field hockey player and former goalkeeper of the Indian national field hockey team, and it was Negi who coached the girls and Shah Rukh Khan for the film. While some of the actors who played the girls in the hockey team were real players, many had to learn from scratch.

MS Dhoni: The Untold Story: To portray the role of cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni, actor Sushant Singh Rajput, has been training for four months learning how to play and keep wickets like the Indian skipper.  Apart from watching countless videos of Dhoni playing, Rajput also practiced his shots for 7-8 months, ten hours a day. He also had to focus on getting his style of walking, talking and mannerisms correct. He met the cricketer a number of times, and had a set of questions prepared consisting of all the doubts he had.

Baaghi: Actor Tiger Shroff is already trained in Taekwondo and Wushu, and for Baaghi, where he plays a rebel, he has been learning Kalaripayattu, the martial art from Kerala. Shroff will be performing the difficult stunts himself and so has been going through a rigorous training session. His co-star, Shraddha Kapoor, who will also be seen performing some dare devil stunts and action sequences including hand-to-hand combat, kicking, punching and blocking, is being trained by Shroff.