Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra directorial Toofaan will see Farhan Akhtar taking on the role of a boxer, who ditches the street stamp to become a professional. As Farhan’s look has been revealed in the film, there’s a lot of discussion about his physique which not only looks fitting of a boxer’s build but also inspires.
We caught up with Farhan’s trainer for Toofaan, Drew Neal, who spoke to us at length about helping the actor achieve the desired looks for the film.
How did you come on board Farhan Akhtar’s physical training for the Toofaan role? Now that the film shoot is over, do you guys still train together?
I had been training his girlfriend Shibani Dandekar for a while and she mentioned to me that Farhan would like to try a bit of boxing training with me. Initially, the three of us did some sessions together before Farhan mentioned to me that he was in fact doing a boxing movie and would like my help for the role. Although the movie has now been completed, Farhan fell in love with boxing so much that we still continue to train together both in boxing and in the gym. In fact, we are working towards his next role as we speak.
Talking about Toofaan, what were Farhan Akhtar’s expectations as you began training together for a certain body and look?
The brief was multi-faceted. He wanted to look and feel like a boxer. For me, this was the most important part, I wanted Farhan to become a boxer and not have to act. Each movement should be taught and perfected as if he was training for a real fight. Of course boxers also look athletic, so the physique would need to mirror how a boxer would look. In fact, in the movie there are 3 different looks that needed to be created. Each look required a detailed plan and implication of that plan to be successful.
How does Farhan Akhtar feel about the way he physically looks in the movie?
Farhan is very much a perfectionist and if he wasn’t happy with any of the looks I know he would have shot it again. So the fact that the film is complete tells me he was happy.
Please take us through Farhan Akhtar’s physical transformation journey for the Toofaan role. The pictures on social media look quite exciting…
There were three different looks that were created for the movie and each had a time scale and a plan which was fully discussed and adhered to. Farhan’s training was often grueling and pretty much throughout the schedule he was training 6 days per week and 2/3 times per day. He would start with boxing in the morning, a strength session later on and even an extra cardio session if required.
What diet did Farhan Akhtar follow for the Toofaan look?
The training is just one aspect of creating the look. Nutrition is often the most challenging and this needs to be adapted throughout the schedule. There were stages where Farhan was eating 1500kcals per day and there were stages where he needed to eat as many as 5000kcals per day. Food for Farhan was often seen just as a fuel to get him through the sessions so his macronutrients had to be spot on in order for him to have the energy to train as hard as he was and of course recover post the sessions to get him ready for the next day.
Apart from diet and workout, what other factors were involved in achieving the Toofaan look?
There are many things that Farhan had to consider in order to create his look. He has a team to develop each area, whether it be his wardrobe or his hairstyle, everything was put under the microscope and discussed at length. I was actually blown away with the details and inputs from the team. But perhaps the biggest thing for me was the fact that Farhan completely absorbed himself in the role during the schedule. He wanted to live the boxer’s life, his training, his food and routine mirrored how a boxer would prepare for a fight including even a fight camp, where he trained with talented boxers from all over India. I feel this got him to understand the boxer’s mentality and what needed to be done.
What were the high and low points in this fitness journey for you?
Honestly, I loved every second of the journey. This was a dream project for me, working with a wonderful team and with a sport that is extremely close to my heart. There were challenges, but we always overcame them. I really loved being on set working with the team on the training montages, getting Farhan ready to perform the movements and looking his best for the camera, even designing the workouts that were shot. I loved that I was allowed to be so involved in that process and given a chance to show off my expertise which I can’t wait to see on the screen because I know how much work went into each scene.
What challenges did you as trainer and Farhan Akhtar as trainee face in the journey for the Toofaan look? How did you overcome them?
Farhan juggles multiple things at one time, so of course a challenge was scheduling. I needed to make sure that he was able to balance his training along with all the other daily work he has to take care of. Fortunately, he often prioritised training but this meant I had to ensure he didn’t over-train and made sure he was resting sufficiently. With any training and in particular boxing training we had our fair share of injuries to overcome. But there was never a moment we didn’t adapt and work around them. I am particularly creative in this way but it helped that Farhan was always willing to push regardless of any pain he may have been in.
How do you go about training a client who comes to you with specific goals in mind?
Everyone is unique and has unique requirements. I have trained thousands of people over the years and because of the diverse clientele, I have come across most situations. That said, the process is always the same. It begins with a very open conversation where I find out what they want to achieve and I listen intently and analyse the words that they say compared with what they actually mean. Often people aren’t sure about what they want to achieve and so I have to help them to find their why. Once I know this I understand how to push them and motivate them. I then give them honest feedback and tell them whether they need to adjust their goal or whether they can realistically achieve it. I then balance their wants and their needs and design the optimal plan, covering training, nutrition and rest. Then the journey begins and although the plan is set, it’s fluid and often changes as we move forwards but I always keep their goal in mind and ensure that we are always taking one step closer.
Realistically speaking, how difficult is it to achieve a physique such as Farhan Akhtar’s in Toofaan for a person in their mid-40s?
This often depends on how active they have been in the past. As we get older, our body changes. People see someone like Farhan on the screen and think I want to look like that without realising all of the sacrifices that would need to be made. Strict dieting, hard training and consistency of sticking to a plan are all things that are required. These things aren’t particularly appealing and therefore people don’t get the results that they desire. This is more often the reason and less to do with their age. I feel that people should set better goals, not to have aspirations of looking like someone in a movie but to be a better version of themselves. If they start introducing good habits into their lives and improve themselves just 1 per cent a day then that will compound and they will start to become something that they potentially had never imagined.