Farhaan Akhtar gets fat-free at 43... here’s how you can too!
We meet Farhan Akhtar at his Santa Cruz office. Dressed in a casual T-shirt and jeans, the 43-year-old actor doesn’t really look like a college kid, but Farhan is in supreme physical form. He looks fitter than ever. So much so that he might give his friend and co-star, Hrithik Roshan, a tough competition for the ‘Bollywood’s Greek God’ title!
“Just four years back I did play a 19-year-old in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag,” he says shyly. But this time, his newly acquired body has nothing to do with any particular character he is playing. “Fitness is about keeping yourself healthy. This is something you do for yourself, and for your loved ones,” he says. “Being healthy is not just about building a body, it is a lifestyle that manifests itself in your general outlook. It makes you more positive and optimistic and increases your energy level.”
Fun and games
Farhan has always been in good shape, which enabled him to survive the rigorous training he had to do to play former sprinter and one of India’s greatest sports icons, Milkha Singh. “While growing up, I was always involved in some kind of sport and that kept me fit anyway. But I started taking my fitness really seriously about a decade back. And what you see today has a lot to do with that,” he says.
Still, Bhaag Milkha... was a turning point for him. His rigorous training and strict diet for the shoot had some very positive and sustained side effects on him.
“I have not been able to go back to the way I used to eat or drink before I started training for the film,” explains Farhan. “Working on the movie made me realise the true meaning of fitness and the value of getting enough rest.”
Busy actor that he is, it is not easy to maintain such an austere fitness regime. “For the 18 months I was training and shooting for Bhaag Milkha..., my life revolved around the movie and its schedule. I slept on time, woke up by 5am, hit the tracks, went to the gym, and stuck to a fixed diet. But now I keep tweaking my fitness regime to suit my shooting schedules,” he says.
He won’t let his erratic schedules beat him, though. Apart from hitting the gym, Farhan has recently taken up cycling. “I usually play volleyball three times a week. I think it is important to play a sport,” he says. “Apart from the joy of it, it helps keep you fit. But every monsoon this schedule would go for a toss as there are no indoor volleyball courts nearby. The other option was to go swimming. But going back and forth between two walls becomes a bit boring after a while.” he adds.
“Then a friend suggested we should try cycling. We started with a few rounds in Bandra, and then kept increasing the distance. I once even cycled to Gateway of India and back all by myself, because…well my friends ditched me,” he laughs.
Is he scared of being mobbed? “With my helmet, my polarised shades, and my mask to keep the pollution out, I look like Darth Vader. So not many people venture near me,” he quips.
Farhan has already set a few milestones for himself. “By November I want to be able to cycle to my house in Lonavla. Then I’ll go a little further every month,” he says. “Also, you can indulge in this even while you are travelling. Most countries have dedicated tracks for cycling. Next year, I am planning to attempt the Danube Cycle Path. It is a 340km cycling path hugging the river Danube that starts from a little town called Passau in Germany and end in Vienna, Austria.”
Beating the biryani
His diet, Farhan is aware, is just as important as his exercise. If he is shooting in Mumbai, he carries his own tiffin of home cooked food. “My dabba usually has grilled chicken or fish and some kind of leafy salad or quinoa or couscous,” he says. “Even when I am shooting outside Mumbai, I’m very particular about what I eat and when I have my meals. I make sure I keep myself miles away from the catering area so that the wafting aroma of the biryani doesn’t tempt me. ”
While shooting Bhaag Milkha..., Farhan’s daily diet consisted of grilled chicken, steamed broccoli and black dal. “My end-of-schedule treat was a glass of sweet lassi,” he says.
After such a hardcore diet, it was difficult to get back to a normal diet. “Your system changes, and it is very difficult to just gorge a plateful of biryani. Your body doesn’t allow you to,” he says.
“That doesn’t mean I haven’t worked my way back to the biryani, I absolutely love it. But if I have rich, spicy food, like a chicken curry or something, my body gives up.”
Given the long-term physical impact Bhaag Milkha... had on Farhan, would he be up for another such extreme body makeover for a film? What if he had to look emaciated, the way Randeep Hooda did for Sarbjit?
“Anything is achievable as long as you are working with people who know what they are doing. But it would be scary to look as emaciated as Randeep in Sarabjit. That is dangerous. These things require experts who can ensure that the basic requirements of your body are met and there are no negative consequences. ”
And what are his thoughts on ageing on screen? “It is not about whether I am open to playing a college kid, a character my age or an 80-year-old. It’s about whether the character is interesting and I can convince myself that I can pull it off. If you can’t convince yourself, you’ll not be able to convince the audience,” he says.
Would he ever play a dad? “I don’t know many actors who have played a father as many times as I have!” he chortles. “I have played a dad in Wazir, Shaadi Ke Side Effects and in Rock On 2. People I work with know what I can bring to the table. If the role is that of a dad, I’ll prepare for it the same way I would to play any other character.”
Holding out for a hero?
Farhan is yet to play a quintessential Bollywood hero. “The definition of a hero has changed, but we are still stuck with the ’90s definition of it,” he explains. “Today, if you have a hero doing all that OTT stuff, it looks outdated.” Still, he adds: “I don’t mind playing those loud action heroes, if the story is interesting. If I have to single-handedly beat up 50 goons, there’d better be a good reason to do that!”
He points out that even in Bhaag Milkha..., he breaks into a song and dance. “The flight of fantasy needs to be rooted in some kind of reality,” he explains. “I can’t play a random rich guy called Vicky Malhotra who drives some posh car. I need to understand where the character is coming from, and also where he is going in the film.”
But he adds that the biggest mistake any actor can make is to say ‘I don’t want to do this kind of a role’. “I am not averse to any kind of role. I might get a very interesting role in the garb of the rich college student stereotype,” he says, revealing that his next film with Nishikant Kamat might see him do just that. “It is a very out there film with mainstream hero characters,” he says impishly.
Does this film have 50 villains? We don’t know. But with his newly- acquired body, Farhan looks every bit of an action hero already.
(By Kamal Singh, CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist):
In your 20s...
Exercise: Build strong bones through resistance/weight training and play a strenuous sport for cardio – squash, soccer or even badminton.
Nutrition: Increase protein and good fats in your diet. If you’re vegetarian, supplement with quality whey protein.
Stay slim: Walk more and stand more.
Lifestyle advice: Sleep more. Shut your phone, laptop by 10.30pm and get eight hours of sleep.
Life-changing advice: You are what you eat. Dump the junk food.
In your 30s...
Exercise: Resistance/weight training for muscle strength and cycling/running for cardio.Nutrition: Portion control is the name of the game.
Bingeing is out, sensible eating is in.
Stay slim: Avoid desserts.
Lifestyle advice: Drop hard drinks and smoking. Drink red wine.
Life-changing advice: Stress starts to build up in the 30s. Learn stress reduction techniques – yoga, meditation or chanting.
In your 40s...
Exercise: The running bug seems to hit the 40s crowd. If bitten by it, first see a physiotherapist, get an appropriate strength programme and then hit the road.
Nutrition: Protein, good fats all go up, simple and processed carbohydrates all go out.
Stay slim: Six small meals throughout the day.
Lifestyle advice: Spend more time with family. Go on holidays.
Life-changing advice: Men must get testosterone levels checked, women must get their estrogen/progesterone levels checked.
In your 50s beyond
Exercise: Weight training is imperative.
Strong muscles lead to strong bones.
Nutrition: No junk food please. If non-vegetarian, add oily fish to the menu every week, if vegetarian, sprinkle flaxseed on your yoghurt
Stay slim: Long walks up to 8km a day at a speed of 6.4 km/hour. Bonus – your heart will thank you.
Lifestyle advice: Improve quality of sleep by getting checked for sleep apnea.
Life-changing advice: Hire a personal trainer to guide you through the process.
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From HT Brunch, September 17, 2017
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