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Interview Hindi

I’d like Ranbir Kapoor to quit smoking, says his trainer Kunal Gir

Though smoking is necessary to portray Sanjay Dutt in Sanju (2018), the Hyderabad-based fitness trainer hopes the actor quits the habit eventually. Gir also discloses how Ranbir loves haleem.

Ranbir Kapoor with Kunal Gir

Mayur Lookhar

When you are playing Sanjay Dutt, you have got to bulk up. And method actor that he is, Ranbir Kapoor wasted no time hiring the services of Kunal Gir, a noted fitness trainer from Hyderabad.

Gir has over 15 years of experience in bodybuilding. His clientele includes popular actors from the South like Rana Daggubati, Tamannaah Bhatia, Rakul and Sudhir Babu. An unknown commodity to Hindi cinema audiences, Gir was bound to jump into the spotlight the moment he signed up Ranbir Kapoor as a client. However, fanfare means little to the seasoned professional who believes in getting results for his client. He will not sign on any other Hindi cinema personality until Kapoor has excelled in his efforts.

Speaking exclusively to Cinestaan.com, Gir shared his experience of training Kapoor and also spoke about why he wants the actor to quit smoking. Gir also mentioned why he wants Rana Daggubati to look like Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson and bemoaned the primitive fitness standards of Indian actresses, especially the ladies down South who are still compelled to look chubby. Excerpts:

Firstly, you can get a man to bulk up, but how do you make Ranbir Kapoor, who is perhaps 5 foot 9 inch tall, to look like a big 6-foot guy like Sanjay Dutt?

Firstly, Ranbir Kapoor is 6'1", not 5'9.

6'1"? He doesn’t look that tall.

He is that tall. Sanjay Dutt is actually 6'2" but he walks with a hunch. Ranbir is 6'1", so they both are equally tall. It’s just that Dutt has this persona of being a giant whereas Ranbir has never been known for his physicality.

I read an article which stated that you were preparing Ranbir Kapoor for Ayan Mukerji’s Dragon, but Kapoor is currently shooting for the Sanjay Dutt biopic. Is he required to sport the same physique for both films?

Ranbir has never had a physical dimension to his identity. He agreed to get into a certain shape for Dragon, where he is to have a body like a gymnast, look athletic. Initially, we started to train him for Dragon, but then the Dutt biopic [Sanju] came about. Besides, Dragon kept getting delayed. Ayan was more than comfortable to let Ranbir start with Dutt. This film will be wrapped up in a couple of months and around June or July 2017, Ranbir should start working for Dragon.

Are the two looks contrasting?

We had to work really hard to make him look as close to Sanjay Dutt [as possible]. For Dragon, his looks will be more aesthetic, he will have a more chiselled look.

What has been your experience so far of training Mr Kapoor?

Ranbir is a very good client. He is very committed, does his job well. I don’t have to babysit him as much. If I tell him something, then he follows it to the T. He is the kind of guy who takes his time to decide, but when he does it, he does it very well. I have had no complaints so far. He is very punctual. I have to travel from Hyderabad to train him, so he always keeps my schedule in mind. He trains in the evening and morning, so that I can get back to Hyderabad soon. He doesn’t need to do it, nor did I ask him for it, but he is very accommodating in that way. I have friends who train Bollywood stars and they keep telling me horror stories. Ranbir is very professional. I have never had to wait more than half an hour for him.

In terms of the training, what has been the biggest challenge for him and for you?

There are two aspects of training – physical training and diet. The two need to go hand-in-hand. The major challenge was with the diet. For him, eating so much food is not something he was used to. He eats in small quantities. He is fond of pizza. For him to clean up all that and to eat meticulously every three hours, to weigh out the portions, was tough. I would tell him to eat 125 grams of chicken or vegetable. That diet was very precise and it was very difficult for him to adjust to it in the beginning. It was an alien concept for him to think of food in this precise way.

As for training, he has a unique structure and mobility which has its own advantages and disadvantages.

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Can you specify one advantage and disadvantage?

Ranbir has good shoulders. They respond well to the training. The same cannot be said about his chest though. So, you have to prioritize his training to make sure his chest also develops equally. He is not used to hard-core training. So, initially, he would train with lighter weights, do more cardio-centric work, but now it is pure lifting of weights and less of cardio. He is also a football player, so his general fitness standards have been high. Make him do an hour of cardio and he will be pretty happy.

How many days did it take for you to see the change in Ranbir – both physical and mental?

We had to deliberately slow down our progress, because when he was training, he was simultaneously shooting for Jagga Jasoos. His look is vastly different there as he is required to look more like a schoolboy. We couldn’t bulk him up too much then for that would take away the look of Jagga. During the shooting of Jagga Jasoos, we would train him for things that were hardly visible. We got him to work on his legs, chest, but didn’t do much with the shoulders or arms. At the same time, his other projects were also lined up, so we couldn’t wait for Jagga to finish.

Unfortunately, mid-way during Jagga, Ranbir said he was looking big on the screen as his clothes were not fitting him. So, we had to drop the training for a week or two. Thereafter, we made him do cardio and lose some weight. At a particular time, one can either gain weight or lose weight, doing both is very difficult.

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The Kapoor family is full of foodies. Is Ranbir a foodie too?

He is a big foodie! When I used to go thin, he kept telling me about the nice places to eat in Mumbai. He would tell me go have pizza from here, Chinese is served well there. Now, though, he is not allowed to eat outside food. He gets his fixed meal but, occasionally, I carry haleem [a stew composed of meat,lentils and pounded wheat] for him from Hyderabad. He is not a biryani guy. If it’s not haleem, then he likes to eat pizza occasionally. He is not into red meat and other stuff. Ranbir doesn’t like to experiment for he only eats what he is comfortable with. We had a get-together at his grandmother’s place. They had all fine cuisine, which he wanted me to taste.

Is it tough even for a professional fitness trainer like you to resist?

Look, my job is to make other people’s physique. So, whatever happens with me is second priority. One should be focusing on your client. Many a times when I’m training Ranbir, my diet takes a back seat. You must be selfless.

What does Rishi Kapoor have to tell you as to how you are training his son?

I keep meeting his mom [Neetu Kapoor] a lot because he is close to her. She is very happy about his progress. The next good thing would to be try and make him quit smoking. It’s a common hazard for everyone living a stressful life.

Has Ranbir been able to cut down on his smoking?

The issue here is that he needs to be smoking for the Sanjay Dutt biopic. Mr Dutt is known for his heavy smoking. Ranbir is a method actor and so he smokes for this film. However, Ranbir has promised me that once the film is complete, I would help him quit smoking.

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What impact does smoking have on his current training and fitness?

Ranbir is not a heavy smoker. But any kind of smoking is not good. It affects your appetite as you can’t eat much. For him to grow, he needs to eat a lot. However, it has not been much of an issue. He has been gaining weight. I keep getting his blood checks done to ensure everything is going correctly. I would still like him to quit smoking though.

You have said Ranbir is a humble guy, but have you ever had a tough time training your other celebrity clients?

Fortunately, I have an eye to pick people whom I will get along well with. If I get a feeling that a person may be a misfit, then I simply decline him/her. Before I commit to them, I meet my clients a couple of times, trying to get an idea of their needs, mindset. If something turns me off, then it’s a straight no from me.

Have you ever turned down a big star down South?

I don’t pursue them. A lot of celebrities want a good physique, but they don’t really want it that bad. Often they want a physique because it is the in thing, they consider it an obligation. They are not committed to their decision though. Such clients will end up as negative publicity for me. If I don’t show results, then even my reputation is at stake. It doesn’t matter how big a star he/she is, but that would be a bigger failure for me.

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All right then, from the good clients down South, which client has been the biggest challenge for you?

I would say Rana Daggubati is not a genetically gifted guy. People assume that Rana was a big, muscular guy to begin with, but he was not. He was actually a fat guy. When I first started training him, he was an obese guy who didn’t have any muscles. He had a big waistline. From there to here has been a long journey. For him to now look like this was a difficult thing for him to believe. I used to tell Rana that he must look like 'The Rock' Dwayne Johnson. He would laugh at me, but after Baahubali 2, he is now beginning to believe in himself more.

The challenge is to get people to believe that you can achieve something great. If they don’t do their part well, then I, too, lose my motivation.

Apart from Ranbir Kapoor, has any other Bollywood celebrity approached you?

Right now, I have told Ranbir that I don’t want to handle anybody. He was referring me to some other people, but I turned it down as I just want to focus on his job first. Besides, it would be unfair on my part to capitalize on this without first seeing Ranbir’s results. I need to showcase my work in Mumbai and Ranbir is a good candidate to work with.

If I were to ask you hypothetically, is there any current actor in Bollywood whom you would like to train?

(Pauses) It is difficult to say that for I always wanted to train people who don’t have a physique. So, I wouldn’t like to train a John Abraham or a Hrithik Roshan. These guys have already made a physique. No matter how popular or unpopular they are, I would rather pick an actor who has no physique. I feel that would be a better display of my work. For example, even if I’m a trainer to Barack Obama [the former US president], it only makes me a popular trainer, but it doesn’t make me good at my job.

Is it tougher to get actresses into shape?

Indian standards as far as fitness is concerned are very primitive. I feel Indian actresses are 10-15 years behind. For example, when Priyanka Chopra went to the Oscars, she was trolled for being chubby. That is the point I have been telling people here [in the South] for a long time. Nobody pays attention to that, for they believe that is what sells here. You don’t need to be that fit.

The definition of fitness is changing. For them to get out of the mindset of being really toned and fit and look like a Cameron Diaz or Jennifer Aniston is still tough to digest. Most of them eat a salad or two, some do aerobics, and that’s about it. This is a wrong approach towards fitness.

In India, I call them skinny fat. They are thin, but it is still made up of fat. The lean and toned look comes out of getting muscles. If you look at Cameron Diaz, she would look lean and toned because she is carrying muscles. In India, our actresses only want to be thin. Down South they want to be chubby! So, it becomes very difficult to train them [Southern actresses].

In the South, I presume that being chubby might be a cinematic requirement.

Yes, the audience likes that. They don’t want thin-looking heroines. I have trained Rakul, who is fitness freak. In one of her films, she got to show her abs. However, she too would moan how directors and producers want her to look chubbier.

One final thing. I guess you met Ayan Mukerji. Did you advise Ayan to lead by example and get into great shape?

(Laughs) Ayan is pretty fit. When I met both, I found Ayan to be fitter than Ranbir. He has been constantly working out. He has a nice balanced diet, eating three meals a day.