Kripa Shankar Bishnoi was readying women wrestlers for the Rio Olympics, which took place in August this year, when Fatima Sana Shaikh and Sanya Malhotra were sent to train under him as part of their prep for Aamir Khan's 'Dangal'
Kripa Shankar Bishnoi was readying women wrestlers for the Rio Olympics, which took place in August this year, when Fatima Sana Shaikh and Sanya Malhotra were sent to train under him as part of their prep for Aamir Khan's 'Dangal'. Although it was just for a film, the national wrestling coach was determined to make their moves seem as authentic as can be when the cameras rolled.
Bishnoi made Sanya and Fatima follow almost the same drill as the Phogat sisters — Geeta and Babita, who they essay in 'Dangal' — and Sakshi Malik, who clinched a bronze at Rio.
Fatima Sana Shaikh and Sanya Malhotra
"This film is not just a mere acting job," the coach says, adding, "They were trained as professional wrestlers. Though the intensity was a tad less, the process was the same.
They fought wrestlers of various weight and strength categories. In 14 months, what they pulled off is phenomenal. Even Geeta and Babita couldn't have done as much justice to the film as Sanya and Fatima have."
Kripa Shankar Bishnoi
Bishnoi, an Arjuna awardee, along with popular wrestler Jagdish Kaliraman, had taken the final casting call for 'Dangal'. "The initial plan was to cast young wrestlers and accordingly, Shilpi Sheron and Pooja Dhanda were shortlisted for the film. However, the raw intensity of Fatima and Sanya gave depth to the movie. Another young woman called Annie had also caught our attention. They were chosen from among 10,000 girls," he reveals.
When we got down to rating, Fatima scored better than the other two: "She lacked strength, but compensated for it with her grappling abilities. Sanya was stronger. Being a former ballet dancer, she was more flexible, too. Over months of training, Sanya picked up pace. Fatima broke her bone [Bishnoi refuses to divulge more about the injury], and ended up training harder."
The coach credits Aamir for infusing energy into the film. "I was worried that he, as an overweight 50-year-old, could possibly hurt himself. But, he proved to me that zidd is what superstars are made of. While training, he would perform a stunt twice or thrice over, but when in front of the camera, he didn't need a retake," says Bishnoi.