Prabhas’ trainer of seven years on transforming the actor from the beefy Baahubali to the running and sprinting leading man in Saaho
Citing the limited time he had to slip into an exercise routine in the midst of filming, Avengers actor Chris Evans had spoken about bulking up to play the part of Captain America. The actor had stated that his team would focus on making him look as big as possible ahead of the shooting schedule so that even as his muscle mass depleted over the leg, he would still look sufficiently beefed up throughout the film. On home turf, trainers of our Baahubali, aka Prabhas, encountered no such dilemma. Come what may, Prabhas, we’re told, would never miss his training session.
“For Prabhas, fitness training is a stress-buster. It is something he genuinely enjoys. So, even if he’d wrap up filming at 12 at night, and regardless of how intense his action sequences of the day were, we would still train later,” says Laxman Reddy, who has been working with Prabhas for seven years. Filming abroad where the unit could not have access to a physical fitness set-up, was no hindrance. “We’d carry dumbbells, weights and resistance bands. If we didn’t find a gym, we’d train in rooms. With a pair of dumbbells, you can pull off a large number of variations. Without accessories, we would execute about 100 free squats and walking lunges over hour-long training sessions.”
Jumping from crafting a body for the period franchise to doing so for the upcoming actioner, Saaho, couldn’t be a mean feat for the actor. If one needed him to look larger than life, the other demanded that he appear lean and agile as he pulled off high-octane stunts. Reddy admits that given the physical transformations demanded of him, it is only fortunate that the actor has a 19-year history in athletics. “He is the best coach for his body because he has studied himself. Even though he may have started body-building only for Baahubali, he has been exercising for several years and well informed about fitness.”
Despite shaving off 10 kilos for Saaho following the franchise, Prabhas, Reddy reveals, had been training for the same number of hours across both films. “For Baahubali, we took to old-school methods, targeting one body part, like chest, arms or legs, each day. Weights would be heavy to enable us to create that bulk. There was a point when he was lifting as much as body builders do.” Reddy put him on a seven meal plan, comprising both, high proportions of carbohydrates and protein, to up his calorie intake. “He had generous portions of rice, bread, egg whites and chicken, and a lot of fats like nuts, as well.”
Unlike many men in the show business, the South actor ensures his physical training is suited to enhance his lifestyle instead of merely furthering the demands of life before the camera. “He is among the few who will focus on training his lower body, just as much as he does his upper body. That is rare. People don’t train the lower body because doing so is hard. But he enjoys the pain. He lifts extremely heavyweights when executing squats and lunges, or training his calf muscles. When in the gym, Prabhas is never distracted.”
Two-hour training sessions were split into an hour-long session of cardiovascular activity, and another hour of medium intensity resistance training work. “Since he had to lose 10 kilos for Saaho, the hour-long cardio sessions would be either swimming, cycling or playing volleyball. Prabhas loves to play the sport, and it’s only a coincidence that I am also a national-level volleyball player. So, we play together.”
Meals were restricted to four portions a day and the diet chart would be arrived at after Prabhas and Reddy sat together to discuss what he’d like to consume. “There are certain things that work for him that may not for others. For instance, white rice is better suited for him than brown rice; as is mutton when compared to chicken. Prabhas is a foodie, but when it comes to his films, he is very dedicated.” Action sequences for Saaho demand that Reddy up the mobility component in Prabhas’s routine. The trainer says that coupled with the attention he pays to building strong legs, he is anatomically blessed with good muscle flexibility. “Despite being tall, at six feet two inches, he still has a good range of motion, which helps him perform the kicks as needed.”
Kenny Bates on designing the stunts
During mid-2016, while working on 2.0 in Chennai, the team of Saaho met me. I heard about the challenging action sequence that Sujeeth [wanted to design]. I was absorbed by the scale of action that he proposed to tackle in the time that we had on hand. He wanted to make a sequence that was bigger than anything ever attempted in India. The Indian crew’s relentless dedication inspired me. Our team has been referred to as a mobile Hollywood; bringing together A-list stunt performers from all parts of the world to work on films, regardless of the location. Prabhas is very athletic and trains regularly. He is on a strict diet. He did all his stunts if we allowed him to do so. A few of them were far too dangerous to risk such a talent to try. We spent time developing action beats that fit his character. We tested and trained, as Prabhas and Sujeeth kept aspiring for [more]. If I do not stay on top of my game, there is a line of people waiting to take my spot. I earned this sequence. The work is too dangerous to be taken lightly.
The food you love to eat on a cheat day: Ice cream.
How often do you indulge in a cheat meal: Every day.
Is it a cheat meal or a cheat day: Cheat meal.
Do you compensate for it: Yes, by working out in the morning and fasting after sunset.
In Mouni Roy’s fridge
Fitness tips that work for
Avoiding dairy has helped me. Indians consume a lot of milk products and don’t realise that it is acidic. There are other sources of protein, calcium and probiotics that I prefer.