In recent times, wrestling seems to have emerged as a hit formula for Bollywood films, and when reigning superstar Aamir Khan had to play the part of a Haryanvi wrestler for Dangal, his preparation went far beyond putting on weight.
Known for his perfectionism, Aamir wanted to look effortless in his portrayal of a wrestler and in order to go beyond a cosmetic makeover, the actor hired a wrestling champion to give him exhaustive training. Thus came in 40-year-old Kripa Shankar Bishnoi, an Indore-based wrestler, coach of the Indian women’s wrestling team, and winner of the prestigious Arjuna award (conferred for excellence in sports). Bishnoi has also won a number of medals for India at international competitions, including the Commonwealth Games.
He trained Aamir and the entire crew for the movie, which is slated for release this month. Directed by Nitesh Tiwari, the movie is based on the life of ace Indian wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat, who coached his daughters Geeta Phogat (Commonwealth Games gold medal winner), and Babita Kumari (2012 bronze medal winner at the World Wrestling Championship).
“When Aamir’s team contacted me for the first time, I thought someone was pulling a fast one on me. Later, when I was approached again, I was sceptical and wondered how could an actor do wrestling? It is a sport which is devoid of any use of weapons and it’s a game where injury is inevitable. Also, doing wrestling scenes, acting as a wrestler and even training for it is very difficult. But when I came to Mumbai and saw Aamir’s passion and his grasping power, catching skills and techniques of wrestling, I was proved wrong, He is called Mr Perfectionist for a reason,” smiled Bishnoi, who was approached by Aamir’s production house in March 2015. He added, “The characters in Dangal will be shown wrestling with professional wrestlers while depicting various championships, in the movie. We did not want to cheat the audience by showing the actors merely imitating some random wrestling moves.”
In order to portray the ageing wrestler Phogat, Aamir had gained 30 kg, taking his weight to 97 kg. The film depicts the journey of a young wrestler, starting from his youth, going all the way to his early 50s. While the director wanted to start the shoot with the ‘young’ Mahavir, Aamir preferred to shoot the sections that showed his character as a middle-aged man first. The actor had reasoned saying, “For a large part, that is almost 80 per cent of the film, I portray a middle-aged man, and I wanted to play that first because if I shoot the ‘young’ portions first and the ‘old’ portion later, I would be fat when the film is complete and there won’t be any reason or motivation for me to lose weight later on.”