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Tridev Pandey: ‘At the onset, he couldn’t do one pull-up’

Updated on: 22 May,2024 08:54 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Sonia Lulla |

Chronicling Kartik’s transformation to play the role of a Paralympics athlete in Chandu Champion, actor’s trainer Tridev Pandey on turning him into an athlete

 Tridev Pandey: ‘At the onset, he couldn’t do one pull-up’

Kartik Aaryan

We find ourselves repeating what we hear in a bid to ascertain that we weren’t mistaken while digging up details about Kartik Aaryan’s fitness parameters. His trainer repeats himself. “That’s right. It was 39,” says Tridev Pandey of Aaryan’s fat percentage. In a bid to comprehend the commendable physical transformation that Aaryan brought about, those unfamiliar with the science of fitness would benefit from knowing that typically, this value would be classified as obese. 
“When we started training, he had only concluded filming Freddy, and was 90 kilos. We did our fitness analysis on day one, and he couldn’t perform a single full-range push-up. He couldn’t execute a pull-up either,” says Pandey, a national-level boxer who had been roped in to help Aryan learn the art of boxing for Chandu Champion, the actor’s next based on India’s first Paralympic gold medalist, Murlikant Petkar. 

Pandey was told that his task for Kabir Khan’s film was two-fold. “I was told that this would be the first time that he would flaunt his body on the big screen, so we had to deliver accordingly. Apart from altering his body composition to look fit, I had to also train him to look like a boxer. This isn’t a film in which there are 10-second boxing bouts; here, there were six proper fight sequences. So, he had to learn the sport from scratch.”

Pandey taught Aaryan boxing techniques, and helped him achieve the physique of an athlete over the course of 14 months. Pics/InstagramPandey taught Aaryan boxing techniques, and helped him achieve the physique of an athlete over the course of 14 months. Pics/Instagram

Having spent his life perfecting the art of boxing, Pandey knew that he would have to first train Aaryan to have command over his bodyweight. “Bodyweight training is crucial to developing speed, strength, and agility. The sport also requires endurance and accuracy. He had to train to address all these aspects so that he could truly comprehend what boxers feel and how they train. We trained for a year-and-a-half, and by the end of it, he could pull off push-ups with a 50-kilo plate on his back, and pull-ups with 27.5 kilos adhered to him,” says the proud trainer, who divided Aaryan’s days into two halves so that he could complete his boxing sessions in the morning, and wrap up his strength training routine in the evening. “If he had a good recovery, we’d pull off a strength-based set the next morning, so that he could train harder. If he hadn’t gotten adequate rest, we’d do cardio, and perform the basics of boxing exercises, like jabs or straight hooks.” 

Small steps to success

Pandey describes Aryan’s routine as “pretty simple”. He’d make the actor perform 15 to 20 repetitions of an exercise with sufficient weights to induce muscle fatigue. Subsequently, he’d increase the weights and have him pull off 12 to 15 repetitions. As Aaryan enhanced his strength, and performed more repetitions with the added weights, Pandey challenged him further. “He started as a beginner, and, within 14 months, moved on to doing professional-level exercises. We also had to include technique work, like skipping, because he couldn’t do it. Boxers indulge in three-minute-long matches, interrupted by minute-long breaks. Throughout the three minutes, players are expected to stay on their toes so that they can be agile and move from one place to another. To develop that, skipping is the best exercise. It’s crucial for boxers, and helps them develop [strength in their] calf muscles, agility, stamina, and endurance. If you compare the benefits of running with those of skipping, there is research that proves that [for boxers], skipping is more beneficial. By the end of our training, he could pull off 15 variations of skipping.” 

No short cuts for Aaryan

Pandey states that Aaryan’s malleability is evident in the fact that, in a limited time, he could learn an array of skills. “You can see him pull off a set of four [unbroken] handstand push-ups. He has not used any body double; all the fitness-related scenes that you see in the film feature him. I am happy that he achieved this without the use of steroids. Many people are motivated to take short cuts. But he did not want to go down that road. He is vegetarian, but he consumed eggs during that period. He had protein supplements, multivitamins, and other supplements for recovery. From a 2,200-calorie diet, we brought him down to a 1,800-calorie meal plan,” he says. 

What was his fat percentage when filming concluded, you ask? “We brought him down to seven.” Typically, this composition is associated with athletes.

39 vs 7
Aaryan’s fat percentage before and after the transformation

An interaction with Petkar

Murlikant Petkar

Celebrated as India’s first Paralympic gold medalist, Murlikant Petkar won an individual gold medal in the 1972 Summer Paralympics, in Germany, and set a world record in the 50 metres freestyle swimming event. Pandey recalls that, having interacted with him during the filming process, he was in awe when he learned that Petkar learned to swim after the age of 21. Pandey says Petkar, who was awarded the Padma Shri in 2018, can remind individuals about the need to develop mental grit like they do their physical bodies. “For a single person to achieve accolades in wrestling, boxing, and swimming, you need to have a really strong mind, and he always said he had that. I had goosebumps when I saw him. He must be 83 years of age, and he walked in with a lathi, and sported his army’s military  shirt and jacket, which had many medals,” he says. Petkar was disabled during the 1965 war against Pakistan, after he sustained severe bullet wounds.

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