Disha Patani on upping the game for female actors with her gymnastics, MMA moves

Updated: Jul 24, 2019, 08:25 IST | Sonia Lulla |

Disha Patani proved that she was anything but fragile as she graduated from matching Tiger Shroff's moves to matching his stunts

Disha Patani
Disha Patani

Her cinematic endeavours apart, Disha Patani began to initially hold the attention of cinephiles following her frequent appearance in Tiger Shroff's dance videos that punctuated his Instagram feed. And while her nimble-footedness and lithe frame could be deceptive, Patani proved that she was anything but fragile as she graduated from matching Shroff's moves to matching his stunts. Easily among a current lot of actors best adept to headline a female-led action film, Patani, with her front and back saltos, single-hand cartwheels and mixed martial arts moves, has been testing the limits of her body.

"I took to gymnastics three years ago. It's always good to learn it when you are young, because the body changes after the age of 20," she says, reiterating how bones and muscle may become less malleable with age. "When I am not shooting, I alternate between practising gymnastics and MMA in the week. MMA is relatively easier. But for gymnastics, you have to be both, consistent and brave. It has taken me a while to reach where I am. You have to do it every day. [Only when] you break your bones and knees do you reach somewhere." Patani is no stranger to injury. Having once trained on concrete terrace floors, she recalls falling on her head and losing her memory. "I lost six months of my life because I couldn't remember anything." Only recently, when attempting to pull off a front salto for Salman Khan-starrer Bharat, she also busted her knees. But, a week later, she was at it again. A salto is essentially a forward or backward body flip performed in a tucked position.

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Front saltos, both Patani and her trainer Nadeem Akhtar admit, are tough to pull off. "They are generally tougher than back movements," Akhtar admits, adding that the progression of movements in gymnastics traditionally involves cartwheels ("basics," he calls them), bridge walkovers and back saltos, before front flips are attempted. "Disha took about two months to do the front flip, and this was after she had already aced the other movements," he says.

Disha Patani with Nadeem Akhtar
Disha Patani with Nadeem Akhtar

Slow and steady wins the race
As long as you are willing to make the investment of time, Akhtar opines that gymnastics can be adhered to by all. "You have to warm up sufficiently and work on the flexibility before attempting any movement. Usually, warm-up sessions may include stretches, jumps and bridge walkovers, and can take up 30 to 60 minutes of the class. Jumps are crucial. You can't attempt flips unless you are able to jump high enough. The progress is gradual, and movements like the backflip can take as long as three to six months to execute." While several professionals advocate minimising heavy-weightlifting so that one's flexibility isn't compromised, Akhtar doesn't encourage that school of thought. "If you alternate between weight-lifting and gymnastics, you can progress in both fields." He, in fact, advocates it so that his clients develop the required strength to pull off gymnastic movements.

Also Read: Disha Patani: My dad feels awkward looking at my photoshoot pictures

Brave, not stupid
Throughout this conversation, Akhtar reiterates that bravado is as crucial in learning gymnastics as one's physical prowess. Yet, he asserts, his team will not compromise on ensuring the safety of his clients, especially when training actors who are bound by shooting schedules. "For us, safety comes first. If there are things that we can't teach an actor, we will simply state it [to the production house]. In Bharat, for instance, [Disha was] expected to do a jump that we weren't sure about, and hence declined to take it further."

Patani adds that injuries are less likely to occur when you are consistent with training. Her own training, she says, could have helped her reap results faster had they not been punctuated by periods of lull when she had to shoot for films. "When I come back from filming, I have to start from the basics again. If you achieve a split, you need to stretch it every day. If you don't , you lose it."

Disha Patani
Disha Patani

Lift like a woman

It's easy to judge that Patani takes her weight-training sessions seriously when she shares videos of herself lifting a whopping 140 pounds. "I need the strength that I develop in the gym to build strong shoulders for gymnastics. I need strong legs to pull off MMA. Only if I am strong will I be able to pull off these movements. So, I weight-train for 60-90 minutes, six days a week."

Watching what she eats

Patani ensures she doesn't undo the effort put into her long hours of training with an inappropriate diet. "But, there's a difference between starving and eating healthy. I always choose [healthier] options. Ninety per cent of how you look depends on what you eat. If I'm not eating right, no matter however much I train, I won't improve." Eating the right amount of protein also ensures she ups her muscle mass. A lover of all things sweet, she says she permits herself to eat as her heart appeases once in a week.

Also Read: Watch video: Disha Patani does perfect cartwheel with one hand

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