After he came into the spotlight for helping the world’s heaviest woman, Eman, get to half her size, bariatric surgeon Dr Mustafa Lakdawala is being credited, albeit in hushed whispers, for choreographer Ganesh Acharya’s dramatic transformation. "Yes, I met Dr Lakdawala, and did get a surgery," an 85-kilo lighter Acharya tells us when we meet him at his Andheri office, quickly adding, "That was years ago. Ever since I started losing weight a year and a half ago, I’ve had no surgery. I have put in a lot of effort, and recorded my toil, so that one can see my journey through every five to 10 kilos that I shed," he says, adding that while a surgery may make one weak, he has grown stronger because he took up training.
One of Bollywood’s top choreographers, Acharya has been credited for creating some of the industry’s most cinematic dance pieces, including the Ranveer Singh-starrer Malhari (Bajirao Mastani) and Chikni Chameli (Agneepath), featuring Katrina Kaif. Yet, it is his bulging waistline that inevitably becomes a subject of discussion when his name crops up. Acharya says his weight has never been a hindrance when it comes to choreographing sequences, but confesses, like many who successfully shed weight do, that he always knew he was going to lose pounds.
Towards a lighter self
"A movie is being planned for later this year, and I wanted to present a different avatar [of myself]. I wanted people to see me as someone who shed the weight that had become synonymous with me. So, I knew this was the time to get serious about the process. While filming a song for Housefull 3, I felt an impact on my knee, and that’s when I thought, ‘this is too much’."
The journey of shaving off 85 kilos was tough but once Acharya kicked off the process, it got easier. "Itna mushkil nahi hai khud ko takleef dena [It’s not so hard to be tough on yourself]. The process was slow initially, especially in the first two months, when I had to adjust to the workout and the altered dietary habits at the same time. I eat everything, but consume food only from 12 at noon to 8 pm. I had to ensure that I eat dinner post 8. I haven’t attended a family gathering since I started this journey," he admits, adding that if he has to go out, he makes sure he is full by 5 or 6 pm, so he doesn’t have to eat later."
The habit of consuming food at midnight, following his shooting schedules, had to be done away with, but, it was the inclusion of a two-hour exercise routine that demanded more dedication. Acharya took to swimming to adopt a low-impact fitness routine. Pulling out videos that highlight his toil, he shows us how he once struggled to stay afloat in water, but now pulls off 11 exercises in succession over a 75-minute routine.
"It took me 15 days to learn how to float. Slowly, my trainer Ajay Naidu made me do crunches in water. Now, we also execute scissors and lateral raises, among a series of other exercises, at one go. It’s exhausting," admits Acharya, adding that after his swim, he instantly heads to the gym to train with weights. "I could barely work with dumbells of five pounds initially. Now, I train with 15 kilos."
Worth the sweat
With the fruit of his toil becoming evident, neither a hectic schedule nor his odd working hours can keep him from skipping his routine. On outdoor shoots, Acharya requests hotel authorities to keep the pool open for longer so he can train after his schedule, while, back home, his wife Vidhi ensures home-cooked meals reach him on time. "Being a Punjabi, she’s always focussed on meals. First, the focus was on creating lavish meals, now the aim is to provide healthy alternatives. She has helped me throughout."
Individuals who shed a substantial amount of weight are always rewarded with the sweet gift of an altered size label. Acharya’s joy is evident as he speaks about moving from a seven XL to an L, and confesses that now he doesn’t worry about sitting on chairs, lest they break. "A while ago, Sajid Nadiawala (producer) had gifted me a sizable chair, which I’ve kept in my dance studio. I still use it, but while the chair is still big, I’ve become smaller."
The National Award winner hopes to reach his target weight of 95 kilos in the next two months, but admits that getting past this last leg of shaving off 19 kilos is turning out to be harder than expected. "The body has hit a plateau, and now we’re trying to understand how to break this. We’ll be amending my regime, and will probably incorporate more running routines. I also recently bought a cycle, so I intend to start cycling soon."
A short film showcasing Acharya’s training, from the day he first hit the pool to achieving his target weight, will be shared on YouTube. Smiles Acharya, "It will be a testimony to all the effort I’ve put in."
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