Traditionally, Bollywood heroines have been portrayed as damsels in distress or just considered the glamour factor in films. But over time, they are playing much stronger parts, and more film-makers are casting them in roles that require them to undertake physical activity.
For her role in Bajirao Mastani, Deepika Padukone is learning sword-fighting, horse-riding and Kalaripayattu (an Indian martial art that is considered the oldest fighting system still in existence). Meanwhile, to build stamina for the action scenes in her just-released film, NH10, Anushka Sharma opted for interval training, which involves running at very high speeds, stopping, and picking up speed again to boost one’s heart rate.
However, actresses aren’t complaining. "It (action) was something new for me, and I have always been happy doing new things. You’ll find the action (in the film) different, real and organic,” says Anushka. Deepika, too, admits that her role "demands a lot of preparation". She recently told HT Café, "As I have never done a role that requires any of this (physical training), it will be hard. I will have to learn from scratch. It will also be stressful as the training would have to be done simultaneously with the shooting."
The actor is also learning horse-riding and sword-fighting for her role in the period film, Bajirao Mastani.
Learning: Interval training
Two to three months before the shoot of her debut production, NH10, began, she started training to make her action scenes look real.
Learning: Krav Maga
Katrina will train in this martial art for Jagga Jasoos. Rani Mukerji also underwent the same training for Mardaani (2014).
Learning: Martial arts
She will attend a 30-day workshop under the guidance of experts from Thailand, to prepare for AR Murugadoss’s film.
As more heroines gear up for action, industry experts are thrilled. "Today’s actresses are extremely committed to their parts. When they undergo such strenuous training, it brings a lot of honesty to the big screen. And it’s a welcome change," says veteran action director Sham Kaushal. Katrina Kaif is apparently training in Krav Maga (a form of self-defence with techniques similar to boxing, judo, wrestling, grappling and more; this Rani Mukerji also learnt for Mardaani; 2014) for her role in Jagga Jasoos.
We’ve heard that Sonakshi Sinha, too, will soon undergo a 30-day workshop in martial arts under the guidance of experts from Thailand. It will be part of her preparation for AR Murugadoss’s action film.
Recently, Nargis Fakhri attended a 12-day martial arts boot camp in Phuket, Thailand. She learnt Muay Thai, possibly as part of her preparation for a new film. Isha Koppikar, who has signed two action films, is undergoing rifle training for one of the projects, in which she plays a sniper. "Simply put, it’s due to the demand of the role. I don’t understand why we don’t point it out when male actors go in for similar training regimen. Modern-day actresses are getting parts that yesteryear ones didn’t. And if they are doing such films — like any good actor — they want to prove themselves,” says director Omung Kumar. For his film, Mary Kom (2014), Priyanka Chopra underwent heavy-duty training in boxing for around two months.
Training time for the boys
Aamir Khan: The actor is undergoing extensive training sessions to learn wrestling for his next, Dangal, directed by Nitesh Tiwari.
Salman Khan: He is learning boxing and fencing for his upcoming film, Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, directed by Sooraj Barjatya.
Ranbir Kapoor: For his role of a street fighter, he has been trained in mixed martial arts by an expert from Kenya
Shahid Kapoor: For Magadheera remake, the actor will reportedly be trained in horse-riding and sword-fighting.
Sidharth Malhotra: He has learnt mixed martial arts for his next, Karan Johar-produced, Brothers, in which also stars actor Akshay Kumar.