Farhan Akhtar’s transition from playing a casanova in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara to Olympian Milkha Singh in his latest film, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, has been an arduous journey. The actor underwent rigorous training for seven to eight months before the movie and continued with it during the filming as well. Helping him achieve his goal was Central Railways’ Athletics Coach Melwyn Crasto.
“It is easier to train athletes as they have been training since years. But for Farhan, I had to start from scratch, as he had to learn the basics of running, which include correct posture, body movement, running gait and other important factors that go in the making of a good athlete. We had to show legendary Milkha Singh on screen and for it, Farhan needed to look like the part running,” says the 40-year-old coach.
Crasto tells us that the biggest difference between an amateur runner and an athlete is grace, “Everything is co-ordinated. One needs to understand the mechanics of running. First, get your running drills correct, speed, endurance and strength comes next.”
Crasto shares that there are seven to eight different drills such as high knee, back kick, bounding, arm actions and upper body skills. “Farhan was quite good with the co-ordination, so it was easy for him to pick up the drills,” says Crasto.
The biggest task for Crasto while training Farhan was flexibility. “Farhan used to work out, so he had a gym-built body. But in contrast, an athlete has to be flexible. Initially, he used to hate stretching as it used to be painful. But as time passed, he fell in love with it,” says Crasto.
We asked Crasto about the legendary sprinter’s reaction to the result of Akhtar’s training. Crasto says, “He had come to the city to see Farhan’s training and was impressed and congratulated me.” He adds, “We were shooting in Delhi and his wife had dropped in to have a look. She was shocked and said that she couldn’t believe how Farhan looked just like her husband while running!”
Crasto, who has trained several professional athletes such as Sudha Singh, Sachin Patil and Lalita Babar, says that it wouldn’t have been possible for him to be a part of the movie without the support of Eliza Nelson (Senior Sports Officer) and Rajeev Tyagi (Sports Secretary) of Central Railways. “Hadn’t it been for their permission I wouldn’t have dreamt of bagging this project and balancing the training of both, Farhan and Railway athletes.”