Fitness in Bollywood and the NRI Connection


Where do we see the latest fitness craze? Probably in Bollywood, the East Indian film industry based in Mumbai, India. In actual fact, long after we have grown numb listening to the latest Hollywood fitness fads, now Bollywood is constantly talking about the infamous "six-pack abs", having devoted the hype over recent films (Om Shanti Om) to this fact alone. What other fitness fads do we see in the Indian cinema arena? Actresses have taken up the famous "zero look" which is now a common feature of Hollywood actresses. This is the flat abs look that the Western world has grown weary of hearing about. For a long time, the infamous flat abs look has become symbolic of fitness. However, it is important to take a look at some of these extreme fitness crazes from a more serious standpoint. To sum up this very fact, we should take a look at a good quote from the Bollywood actor Shahid Kapur who was asked about getting into the "six-pack abs" look. He answered, "It is not a question of a six-pack. It is more a question of fitness and health and getting your body there. If I have to sport a lean look for a film, I will get my body there". Now doesn't this make sense? Any fitness trainer will tell you it's not how many hours you spend in the gym that is important. It is what you do while you are there and the other hours when you are not in the gym.
The world is getting polarized over the fitness mindset. There is the factual evidence of increased obesity the world over. Then there is the craze for super-fitness and thinness, thinking that these two symptoms are synonymous. Nothing could be further from the truth. While the work of an actor does demand extreme amounts of unrealistic fitness levels which are work related, it is not necessarily a sign of good health and health maintenance. Practicality rules when you are talking fitness and health. For example, vegetarianism is a big topic in the fitness arena incorporating differing mindsets. East Indian style of vegetarianism, which is actually lacto vegetarianism, does not include eggs. There is always the question of adequate protein intakes. In actual fact, a scientific analysis of this diet has indicated that the consumption of lentils in many forms actually makes the diet complete in protein. Lentils are consumed in large amounts, cooked in their original form with vegetables, or soaked and blended into cakes. However, it is true that a protein shake can compensate for any deficiencies in the eating patterns and that is what many Bollywood vegetarians resort to.
A fitness expert in nutrition can advise on adequate levels of nutrients in the diet, given the activity level of the individual. Getting your body where you want it to be and assigning it work to do is the job of a fitness trainer. Why would you guess on your prescription for medications? You would go to a trained physician or pharmacist for such advice. Similarly, it is disastrous to experiment with your fitness. It is the expert's job to determine your ideal attainable and maintainable fitness level. Don't take a guess and get into trouble with experimentation. Ask an experts advice. Most trainers give free consultations. Just ask and walk away if you feel you are not comfortable with the advice or with the trainer. Otherwise, there is no harm in trying out a session or two with a trainer and seeing what the possibilities are. Remember that you should always interact with your trainer. If you don't want to be pushed to the heights they want to push you, then let them know that you should take down your workout program a notch or two for now. This is the best in any relationship, of course, but more so when you are working actively with a fitness trainer. So go ahead and get started with a free assessment. What is holding you back? You have nothing to lose.
The Bollywood connections have put up another aspect which has loomed large recently in the minds of the Western world. What do Preity Zinta, Shahid Kapur and the Telugu actress Meena have in common? They have all acted as NRIs (Non-resident Indians) in East Indian films. The NRI connection seems to be the new box office draw. It looks like someone did some census arithmetic over the stats on NRI cinema-going numbers and came up with good dollar figures. This current generation of NRI is different than their father's generation. We want it all. A little bit of home and our feet firmly planted overseas. We speak our native languages with a bit of an accent although it is not apparent to us. It is apparent to any shopkeeper over in the homeland. Trust us on this one. Plus, we speak English with an overseas accent, which could be Canadian, American or European, depending on our home turf. This is where the filmmakers seem to overlook a dominant factor of NRI life. Our accents do differentiate us. I am waiting for Bollywood to do its casting call to include real NRI accents. I think that aspect of realism will have to wait.
Preity Zinta did a good job of her representation as an NRI in Kal Ho Na Ho. Her speech did not betray her character's long years in the US. Kabhi Alveda Na Kehna doesn't count because the characters grew up in India and were living in NYC for a short time, or so it seemed in the film. Plus there was a lot of natural style English in the movie which really made the characters believable as NRIs. Shahid Kapur , who looks a lot like John Ritter from Three's Company, has just finished working in a film which is due to be released soon. We will see if this film, Kismet Konnection, has the right NRI accent or not. Having just seen the promos to go on at this point, it doesn't look like the filmmakers paid any attention to this aspect. Our accents and manner of speaking betray us every time we go to our homeland that it is a big part of our lives. It is too big to be ignored. However, it would be the director's job to understand that and portray it. Would I really say " gaadi chalega"? Or in the Kismet Konnection trailer, I would probably say "am I the only one whose car doesn't start?" I haven't heard the word "gaadi" in a long, long time on this side of the pond. I think the word 'car' and other English expressions have really taken over. What were the filmmakers thinking on this? Perhaps scriptwriters could do more research on how NRI's talk, walk and behave. It really is a different world and we all get picked out when we go to India because of these very facets of our behavior.
To be believable, filmmakers must constantly think about their actors' accents. That is one of the basic aspects of a film's believability. Meena, who acted in Seetharamaiah Gari Manavaralu (1991), was clearly speaking English with a thick Indian accent in the film. This is highly unbelievable for an NRI. Her ability to speak Telugu however is not surprising as many who grow up abroad are taught the language by their mothers. If they learn it from birth, their ear will not create an accent when they speak their mother tongue. So the ability to speak the native languages without a huge non-Indian accent is believable. However, English has to be learned. I have seen interviews of the most recent crop of Bollywood actors and they all have real definite Indian accents in their English. Some of their language is also strange English to a foreign raised person. One glaring example of this is the use of the phrase "you must be knowing". English has a lot of grammar that remains unused by the majority of the English speaking population. I wish they would change the use of this expression to be "you must know".
While the newly found "extreme fitness" craze of "six-pack" abs and "zero" looks are not unexpected and healthy for the industry, it is time the East Indian film scene explored the proper English accents for their characters, especially if they are trying to portray the NRI population and make it seem believable to us. I am hoping we can look past these glaring deficiencies when Kismet Konnection opens July 18. One great thing these days is that we don't have to wait months for the DVD to come out so we can see it too. We can see it the same day (actually the next day because of the time difference). Thanks to increasing populations, new films are opening up in local theaters everywhere. They, however, do play at the weirdest of times, like Thursday afternoon at 12:30pm only. Maybe a few more years of NRI based films and we will be able to catch these films in theaters on Sunday afternoons, like other mainstream Hollywood films.
For the past 20 years Hema has worked with many individuals, including executives at large corporations, to reduce stress, improve general health and workplace productivity. A variety of personal interests and professional paths have led Hema to her current role as a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and nutrition and wellness specialist. Hema is listed in Who's Who in the World and is an author, lecturer and Can-Fit-Pro certified personal trainer who specializes in body-mind-spirit consulting and training women.


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