Kangana Ranaut on her weight gain for Thalaivi: I never remember feeling so unfit

Updated: Apr 29, 2020, 08:26 IST | Sonia Lulla | Mumbai

En-route to losing the 20 kilos she had gained for her next film, Kangana Ranaut on withdrawal symptoms, and missing her heels

Kangana Ranaut has been taking to moderate intensity full-body circuits at her Manali home, under the supervision of trainer Siddhartha Singh
Kangana Ranaut has been taking to moderate intensity full-body circuits at her Manali home, under the supervision of trainer Siddhartha Singh

We don't expect the usual Kangana Ranaut candour in an interview largely about how many squats she packs into her regimen. But the actor isn't one to offer the ordinary. Unbowed by the heft of her battle against the bulge, Ranaut is playfully self-deprecating when chronicling her 20-kilo weight-loss attempt. "I didn't expect to gain 20 kilos," she says of her endeavour to emulate J Jayalalithaa in the actor-politician's upcoming biopic, Thalaivi. "When Kareena [Kapoor Khan] was pregnant, she gained 16 kilos. I told myself, I am like [a] post-pregnant Kareena Kapoor!" she exclaims at one point, before breaking into a laugh. "I never remember feeling so unfit. At one point, I needed to support myself with my palms to stand up off the floor," she says at another, before the ever-so-slight quiver in her voice reveals the moments that triggered her badly. "I was unable to carry my weight in heels, and that almost left me in tears. One thinks they'll eventually adjust, but, I couldn't walk in my own shoes! Usually, I can run in them, but now my feet would swell. I didn't know how to handle it."

Train, but gain

The diligence with which she had kept tabs on the weighing scale as it climbed by 10, 12 and 15 kilos was rendered redundant after a few weeks of lull. "[The makers] told me to start losing weight so that we could shoot [Jayalalitha's] younger portions, and that's when I noticed that I had gained 20 kilos. I wondered if I had gone too far, and questioned if the decision to take the hormone injections was appropriate." It was towards the close of 2019 that Ranaut had first admitted to leaning on hormone supplements to add bulk to her hips and thighs, to emulate her muse. Unlike the misshapen built acquired by Bollywood's top brass of actors gaining weight for cinema, Ranaut's avatar, though voluptuous, had to resemble the shapely and nimble-footed bharatnatyam dancer that Jayalalitha was. "I had to do bharatnatyam for two hours, yoga for one, and still gain weight in a desirable manner. The mild hormone dosage helped [me] gain weight around the hips. Bharatnatyam involves a lot of leg work, so the dancers tend to [gain weight in this region]. Also, I needed to put on so much weight because I am tall. At 5'8, I had to ensure that the [bulk] was visible on my frame."

Winning the race, slowly, steadily

Currently nestled in picturesque Manali, Ranaut decided to make the most of the lockdown by taking along her trainer of several years. Under the guidance of Siddhartha Singh, founder of iSweat, she has shaved off seven kilos, and continues to crawl, jump and jog off the rest. "We are focusing on workouts that encourage movement for a long duration of time, instead of those involving shorter intervals. The idea is to keep movements sustainable by not rendering her breathless, so that more calories can be burnt. The evening functional training sessions last 45 to 75 minutes, and are coupled with a 20-minute morning walk in her 100-metre driveway," says Singh, attributing her body's positive response to the regimen to her consistent yoga practice.

Her high metabolic rate may afford her many luxuries, but Ranaut won't abuse what she has been blessed with. For as long as Singh can recall, she isn't swayed by food that has little nutritional value, and prefers "home-cooked meals". "Kangana is attuned to her body's [nutritional] needs. If she craves something, she'll have it in limited portion, or cook a [healthier] version of it at home." That her body had become complacent with the additional weight also began to work against her, making the weight-loss process more demanding than both she and Singh had anticipated. "It was difficult. I had to undergo detox. I was affected by the sugar withdrawal, and felt like I was in rehab. For over six months, I was perpetually hungry, and had mood [swings]. The weight wouldn't budge. Also, at 33, things are not as easy [as they were when I was younger]."

Asked if she will do it all over again if a film demands it, her response is prompt, but not very assertive: "No, yaar!" she says. "It's not worth it. My cholesterol level was quite high this time. In my 30s, I don't enjoy doing this."

Singh on principles he uses to train Ranaut


  • We're targeting the anterior and posterior muscles at once. We use the driveway to do short jogging sets, shuttle lunges, back crawls, and jumping jacks.
  • Usually, I avoided exhausting her because actors have to work for the rest of the day, and can't be dealing with aches and pains. I had to be mindful of not targeting the muscles that she would be using for her action films, like Manikarnika. For instance, horse-riding employs a lot of leg work, and hence, when she was learning it, I'd only do weight-less leg workouts with her. Similarly, when she was training in sword-fighting, and using her upper-body muscles, I'd have to shift focus away from her shoulders and arms [in the gym]. 
  • With physical activity currently limited, she is consuming only two to three meals a day. The morning jogs that she takes help in activating her metabolism.

Ranaut's approximate calorie intake, usually


Calories being consumed by the actor currently


Female actors who've gained weight for cinema

Bhumi Pednekar, Dum Laga Ke Haisha


The actor made a note-worthy entry into Bollywood by adding 30 kilos for the film. She reportedly took to conditioning exercises before jumping into a high-intensity routine, when she began shedding the weight.

Vidya Balan, The Dirty Picture


To play the role of an adult film actor, Balan gained 12 kilos, and was uninhibited as she flaunted her figure to do justice to the part of Silk Smitha.

Anushka Shetty, Size Zero


Unwilling to wear a fat-suit for the part, the actor reportedly put on 20 kilos for the film. Under the guidance of Luke Coutinho, she took a generous amount of time to gradually shed it off.

Kriti Sanon, Mimi


Sanon had been on a weight-gaining spree for several months to gain 15 kilos for her forthcoming movie, Mimi, which sees her as a surrogate mother.

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