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Vying for those perfect abs?

india Updated: Jul 03, 2010 19:25 IST
Pranav Dixit
Pranav Dixit
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Imran KhanNinety thousand rupees will fetch you a brand new six-pack. Ask Dr Mohan Thomas, a senior cosmetic surgeon and consultant at Mumbai’s Breach Candy hospital. Dr Thomas gets 20 to 30 people every month who want six-pack abs the easy way (by a surgery called injection lipolysis – see box). And a lot of men do want them the easy way, because, face it, working to get a six-pack is very hard. But it’s also apparently very desirable to have one.

Blame it on luck, blame it on fate… actually, blame it on Shah Rukh Khan, who kicked off the trend less than three years ago with Om Shanti Om. And on Aamir Khan in Ghajini, Shahid Kapur in Kaminey and more recently, Imran Khan in I Hate Luv Storys. The consensus among the people who do matter is: if you ain’t got a six-pack, you ain’t fit!

Packing it on
Fortunately, that kind of thinking is usually restricted to models and film people. “Sixty per cent of the people who come to me are aspiring models,” says Dr Thomas. “Everyone comes to Mumbai to try their luck in the world of glamour and naturally, they all want to look the best they can. I think people looked at SRK and Aamir and thought ‘hey, these two went from being regular guys to being ‘ripped,’ so why can’t I?’”

While the other 40 per cent of Dr Thomas’s clientele comprises older men struggling with mid-life crises, it’s primarily men in the glamour industry who are obsessed with six-packs.

“It’s simple: an aspiring model who does have a six pack certainly has an edge over one who doesn’t, even if the other person does have a flat, toned tummy,” says Pranav Awasthi, who runs Glitz Model Management, a leading modelling agency. “That’s not to say that models don’t require other skills. But at the end of the day, they’re expected to be fit and today, the definition of fit includes having a six-pack.”

Fashion designer Prasad Bidapa is one of those people who welcome the trend and take it seriously. “The ’50s and the ’60s were the years of the prosperity paunch; the ’90s were the years of the bulky macho man with huge shoulders. This decade, lean is in,” he says. Bidapa thinks that having a six-pack is a reflection of our changing perception of health and beauty. “I see it like this: sporting a designer bag with a six-pack works. Sporting a designer bag with a flabby body doesn’t work. It’s that simple,” he laughs. “So every model that comes to audition for me has six-packs - the serious ones have eight - and that’s because the competition is so intense.”

So is having a six-pack the be all and end all of making it big in the glamour world? “Unfortunately, that’s exactly what the newbies feel,” says Awasthi. “But ultimately, acting skills is where the real money is because unless you become a supermodel, you’re probably just one of the 10-15 guys walking the ramp.”

Redefining fitness
Some filmmakers believe that there’s no novelty in actors having six-packs anymore. Shahid Kapur didn’t flaunt his abs in Badmaash Company even though the film did have the mandatory beach scene. Director Parmeet Sethi claims that this was a conscious decision. “Shahid Kapur has not shown his physique in my film because both of us came to the conclusion that it looked extremely pretentious, a been-there-done-that kind of a thing, you know. I mean, let’s face it – Shahid’s character is supposed to be your average kid from the ’90s and at that time, abs were certainly not in vogue.”

Sethi is point blank when airing his views about the trend. “For some strange reason, the younger generation today feels that having a six-pack somehow means you have arrived! I think actors today are competing in all the wrong areas - you know, abs, hair, dancing skills, rather than things that matter like the kind of films they do and the roles they play.” Having six-packs is not bad, he sums up. “But having only six-packs most certainly is."

Punit Malhotra, the director who presents young Imran Khan in a most un-Imran Khan avatar in I Hate Luv Storys too claims that he “only wanted the actor to look fit and getting washboard abs wasn’t a conscious decision at all. But of course, by today's definition, ‘fit’ equals six-pack.” It’s a trend, not a requirement, says Malhotra, but adds, “I'm not sure if it’s a healthy trend.”

It certainly doesn’t seem very healthy. Even gym trainers warn people off it. “Sometimes, Aamir used to shriek in pain and cry doing the stomach crunches while training for Ghajini, but he did not skip a single day,” says his trainer Satya. It took Aamir 13 months of intense four-hour workout sessions daily and a carefully monitored diet regimen to achieve his look in the film. “I’m not sure how safe that is for normal people to attempt,” says Satya.

The real meaty issue is the fact that at the end of the day, washboard abs are a modern-day, machine made construct (ever saw yesteryear wrestlers and even bodybuilders flaunting their six-packs?). The odd part is that most females find them positively gross and claim that a six-pack is certainly not what they’re looking for in their guy. But showbiz has its own rules – most of them made by men!

The trend

2007: Shah Rukh Khan, of all people, kicks off the trend with Farah Khan’s Om Shanti Om. The actor’s six-pack creates much buzz around the film.

2008: Aamir Khan follows in his footsteps and unveils a pumped up new body and a brand new six-pack for the Hindi remake of the action flick Ghajini.

2009: Shahid Kapur puts on some serious muscle and sheds his chocolate boy image to turn into a rough and tough crook in Vishal Bharadwaj's Kaminey.

2010: Imran Khan is the latest entrant on the six-pack scene in the just-released romantic comedy, I Hate Luv Storys


Amit Arora, Model (26)

When did you get your six-pack?
A year before I started my modelling career, I wanted to tone my physique. It took me about six months to get my abs under the guidance of a good trainer and by following a strict diet regimen.

Why did you get it?
I was very conscious of my body and I really wanted a good physique.

How do you maintain it?
It’s all about the diet! I eat high-fibre food like sprouts.Having protein is also crucial: egg whites, boiled chicken, skimmed, double-toned milk, beans and dals. I have been working out and watching what I eat since the past three years, I don’t find it that difficult anymore. Generally, I double my ab exercises and vary my diet about 10 to 15 days before a body shoot to add more definition.

Is it a must-have in the modelling world?
Absolutely, especially in the beginning, when all you’re stuck with is underwear ads! I got my first assignment because of my six-pack.

Luv Khanna, Model (28)

When did you get your six-pack?
I got my six-pack about a year before I started modelling. It took me almost eight months of intense working out to get it.

Why did you get it?
Frankly, I wasn’t really thinking of my career when I set about building my body. I was simply experimenting and I wanted to see what getting a six-pack would be like.

How do you maintain it?
It’s VERY hard. I have to exercise a lot of self-discipline. That involves sticking to the diet schedule that my trainer has drawn up for me. I also have to keep a count of all the calories I consume and make sure that I don’t overshoot. Aloo paranthas are my favourite food and I haven’t had a single bite in the last two years, can you imagine?!

Is it a must-have in the modelling world?
Well, I’ve never really been asked to show my six-pack during auditions, so I don’t think it's a necessity. But that said, I definitely have an edge over those who don’t have one.

Eight-pack trivia

All in a muscle
The abs are just one big muscle. Doing crunches only strengthens the abdominal muscles. You don’t lose any tummy fat. For the latter to happen, you have to lose overall body fat.

Get set
The first two sets are comparatively easier to get. The trick is to use the heaviest weight you can while maintaining the correct technique.

High definition
See these cuts? This is the kind of definition that is only possible with a negative-calorie diet and a high-intensity workout that focuses on cardio.

Final cut
Most people are more than happy with six, but only the most serious ones get an eight-pack. For Ghajini, Aamir Khan had to give up on oil, sugar and alcohol to get this final set.

The six-pack surgery
Fat-busting chemicals are injected into the abdomen to permanently destroy fat cells.
The cells are then sucked out with an instrument known as a cannula.
The result – near-instant abs. However, you risk putting on fat in areas like the thighs and the buttocks.

Beer belly
Drinking beer won’t give you washboard abs (alas!). The way a pack of six cans is sold together on a yoke, though, is the inspiration behind the term ‘six-pack.’