Farhan Akhtar has not only begun to grow his hair and beard to be ready to play a Sikh athlete in "Bhag Milkha Bhag", he has also changed his lifestyle. Every morning he is up early to put in those extra hours of practice for his role as Milkha Singh and says he has to get it right. "I am playing someone who is iconic. I can't afford to get it wrong. But the role's authenticity is what makes it exciting for me. If I can pick roles that can surprise me and the audience, I've achieved what I set out to as an actor," said Farhan.
"Yes, there is a radical change in my lifestyle. I've a training session every morning from 6.45 to 8. I wrap up my athletic activities by 9 in the morning. In any case, the film industry is not awake before 9 a.m. And yeah, late nights are being avoided. Even after the Tom Cruise party on Saturday night I was home by midnight," he added.
"After running in the morning I feel a lot fitter. I am all charged up, raring to go each morning. A month ago when I was skipping gym to edit 'Don 2', I felt sluggish. That heavy feeling is gone," he said.
As for the change in diet, Farhan is "avoiding food that I was, in any case, not too fond of. I do have a relatively athletic frame."
Playing Olympian sprinter Milkha Singh is proving to be a far bigger challenge for Farhan than he had bargained for.
"At the moment it's just a morning session. I am being trained by a gentleman named Melvin who trains Central Railway athletes. But as we get closer to the shooting, there would also have to be an evening session with an Olympian trainer," said the director-actor.
His whole physical language is undergoing a change with the sprinter's training.
"It's a whole new world. Running to be a professional athlete is very different from just plain running. It's like a whole other science I am learning. But my trainer is happy with the progress. Pleasing him has become a benchmark for my progress as a runner."
Farhan says when director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra approached him with the role of Milkha Singh, he was enthused.
"I saw it as one more bracing challenge as an actor. I did read Rakeysh comparing me with Balraj Sahni. I don't know what prompted the comparison. But recently I read an interview of Balraj Sahni where he said he often questioned his choice of profession as an actor since being an actor one had to be an extrovert. Like him, I too am an introvert," he said.
Also known as The Flying Sikh, Milkha Singh represented India in the 1960 Olympics in Rome and the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. Farhan met the athlete briefly.
"That was very rushed. Now I hope to meet him at leisure. But I am not going to imitate his personality. I'd rather like to adopt his philosophy. Trying to replicate his speech and mannerisms would make the role restrictive and rehearsed. It's important for me to understand his take on life and sports. Everything will flow smoothly from there," he said.
He made an impressive acting debut with "Rock On!!" and now Farhan is growing his hair and beard to play Milkha. "I couldn't possibly fake that Sardar look. So yeah I'm going to keep growing my beard and hair until March when we start shooting," he said.
Farhan would be the latest one to play a Sikh on screen after Sunny Deol, Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn, and the first non-Punjabi Sikh.
"Is that an achievement," wonders the bemused sikh-to-be, who will also have to learn how to tie the turban.
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