Bollywood has always been about big. Big money, bigger productions, the biggest stars. In an industry obsessed with bluster, with overpriced stars and their PR machines on manic overdrive, we tend to forget that the machinery of magic that we know of as the film industry is equally run by the ‘little people’ - ushers who double up as ticket vendors at single theatres, reporters who practically invented the Page 3 format without even realizing it, gym instructors who sculpt superstars battling mid-life crises, rickshaw drivers who invented dhinchaak, the sound that has come to define Bollywood music. Also Starring is our tribute to the foot soldiers of pop culture who stitch together the dazzling quilt we call Bollywood.

The man who SRK envies

Meet the superstar’s trainer, Prashant Sawant, responsible for the nation’s most celebrated six-pack abs

As you step into the plush two-storey gym in one of the bylanes of Juhu, the first sight to greet you is the poster you see here, of Shahrukh Khan at his brawny best. As we wait to meet the man behind his transformation, we invite ourselves to explore the sprawling workout area which has every imaginable equipment to transform your body the way you desire. Before the man behind Bollywood’s most celebrated bodies could grace us, we’re escorted to his meeting room which has an illustrious wall of fame, where newspaper cutouts of interviews and articles fighting for space. So if we weren’t prepared with our research, just a glance at this wall would be enough to bring us up to speed. Then, clad in a white tee and track pants, the owner of the gym Prashant Sawant walks in and greets us. It would be easy to mistake him for just another struggler from one of the coffee shops in Oshiwara.  “Nowadays, I hardly get time for a proper workout as I am busy with clients most of the time,” he sighs, quickly glancing at his massive biceps as we sit for a chat with him.

Flab to fab

Prashant’s story is straight out of a Bollywood pot-boiler and you can just gape at him when he says that he weighed almost 100 kilos at one point in time. “I was a fat kid all through my childhood. But like most people I was inspired by Salman Khan to lose weight,” he says. Watching his favourite star’s ripped body on television was enough to inspire him to shed his excess weight. “While pursuing a course in industrial training, I would cycle to the nearby gym in Dahisar after classes and soon enough, I had lost almost 30 kgs.” This was enough to inspire Prashant to take it up as a career option. “After my exams, a friend told me about a vacancy in a nearby gym and I applied for the post to earn some pocket money,” he chuckles. But his decision had some ramifications as his father was deeply unhappy with his choice of career. “My father wasn’t very kicked about my career choice as he believed trainers have a short career. But I decided to take the plunge, thinking that I could always change my line later if it did not pay off,” he adds.

Climbing the ladder
Having started out at the bottom of the ladder with a Rs. 1,000-a-month salary at a Dahisar gym and later in an Andheri gym, he soon got a decisive break that would act as a catalyst for his present success. This came in the form of a job offer from 10, a gymnasium in Bandra, where he got to interact with an elite clientele, including actors Anupama Verma and Dino Morea. The exposure and the positive feedback was enough to convince him to apply for a quick course in LM Fitness Academy. “Anupama was my first client and she liked my work so much that she recommended me to Hemant Trivedi, who was recuperating from an accident at that time.

In with the King

A chance meeting with Shahrukh Khan turned the course of his career. “Shahrukh was shooting for ‘Asoka’ and needed someone to travel with him to Madhya Pradesh for outdoors,” he says. That was his golden opportunity. Soon enough, he was training SRK on a regular basis and traveling with him for shoots to different parts of the world. “Shahrukh is my godfather and it is because of him that I have tasted success,” he admits.

In 2004, he started Body Sculptor in a small garage with just one home treadmill. “During the floods, all my equipment got damaged and then I had to rebuild the gym from scratch,” he rues. Today, he has a fully functional gym with two branches, apart from celeb clients who vouch for his magical wand.

In an exclusive chat, Prashant Sawant talks about the many intricacies of his craft and how he has helped many Bollywood icons acquire the shapes they desired:

How did you help SRK get six-pack abs?
More than the fitness regime that SRK followed, it was his perseverance, hard work and commitment that yielded the result. Shahrukh Khan regularly plays football with his son which keeps him in shape. His training included lot of crunches, cardio and circuit training for 90 minutes daily. At that time, he was battling with back problem so I had to make sure that we don’t put pressure on his back. So we worked out in a way that we strengthen the back muscles and give the weak spot added support. And the result was there to see in ‘Dard-e-Disco’

Want washboard abs?:
What brief do stars give you when they come to you?
My first meeting with the stars is always confusing. I am normally zoned out as I am too busy figuring out the workout schedule in my head. I make it a point to never tell them what their schedule in advance because shock and surprise workout give the best results.

How much time does it take to normally transform a body?
It depends how mentally prepared you are. Ajay Devgn, who was always fit, took just four months to change his body completely. While working towards sculpting his body, we would work on each body part two hours every day and mix it with some cardio. During the two-month outdoor schedule, we used to work out on the sets itself and take turns to do push-ups on the sets. It worked very well.
Ajay beefs up for ‘Singham’:

What is the most difficult part in the body to train?
It is the abs, definitely. Whoever has done a little bit of gymming knows that it is tough to get rock-hard abs and maintain it. But people often forget body is a product of kitchen and not gym. Achieving such great abs involves commitment, hard work and a strict diet. It is very important to understand how the body reacts to your diet and your metabolic rate.

Do all your clients follow your instructions? How do you keep them motivated?
Before a workout, I never tell my clients what we are working on so that they are motivated enough to push hard. Ajay put Abhishek on to me for ‘Bol Bachchan’ and with this technique, I managed to make him lose 10 kgs and get the desired body. He was a good student and followed my instructions without fail.

Want a body like Ajay? Watch this video: