Hollywood and Bollywood: Actors and their Passion

As I watched the piano keyboard, and the rapidly moving fingers of Ryan Gosling, who plays a jazz pianist in the latest Hollywood movie ‘La La Land’, I was unable to contain my curiosity.

I turned to my daughter, in the cinema hall, and said, “He is playing like a real professional. Not like an actor. I wonder how they shot all these scenes of him playing the music.”

True enough. The next morning, my teenage daughter announces: “Guess what, dad! I googled it up. And it seems Ryan Gosling actually played all the piano pieces in the movie, himself!”

It turns out that, for this role, the actor had actually attended piano classes, to learn how to play like a pro. Especially, those pieces he performs.

Somehow, in the same week, in a strange coincidence, we had also watched another movie, where another actor did some amazing things for his role too.

For the Bollywood movie ‘Dangal’, actor Amir Khan had played the role of a wrestler who was India’s national-champion.

In the movie, based on a true story, the wrestler grows old and acquires a pot belly. But he has big dreams to make his daughters not only national champions, but also international champions.

So, the actor had to look like a young muscular wrestler, and also as an old pot-bellied dreamer.

And, interestingly, Amir Khan ate a lot and gained a huge tummy, first. In fact, he convinced the movie director to shoot, first, all the scenes, where he plays the heavy ‘old man’.

If he had shot the scenes of the young man first, the actor says, he would not have had any incentive to work out, and regain his youthful muscular wrestler look.  

The actor had gained 25 kgs (55 pounds), and then lost all that weight for the movie.

Needless to say, without extreme discipline on diet, sleep and exercise, it is impossible to achieve this feat.

In a television interview, I heard the director of this movie say that there was really no need for Amir Khan to strain and challenge himself so much. The director said they could have easily used special effects and body doubles to make it appear any way the director wants.

But with actors like Amir Khan, he says, the passion for realism becomes the moving force.

If extreme was taken to extreme, it was by Hollywood’s Batman. Christian Bale had once stopped eating and exercising in order to drop 29 kilograms (63 pounds) for his movie “The Machinist”.

Robert De Niro had gained 27 kilograms (60 pounds) for one scene of “Raging Bull” in which he played a boxer. And Mickey Rourke in “The Wrestler” built abs and muscles that could make any young man jealous (Rourke was 55 years old at that time)!

To play King Leonidas in the movie “300”, Gerard Butler, who was in less-than-ideal shape when he was tapped for the starring role, spent 4 months transforming his body and his mind. With ‘extreme’ training.

In Bollywood, Deepika Padukone also underwent intense training in the martial art form, ‘Kalaripayattu’ for “Bajirao Mastani”. Her complicated sword-fighting scenes, shot for several days, apparently, went on for 12-15 hours each day.

Shah Rukh Khan, for the movie “My Name is Khan”, and Priyanka Chopra for the movie “Burfi”, studied people with Asperger’s syndrome and Autism; and spent enormous time with them, to bring to life the characters they played.

So, today, if I envy the actors and actresses for their money, I realized, I must also pity their harsh training and dietary regimens.  No pain, no gain. 


(The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of this newspaper.)

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