Actor, director and playwright Manav Kaul, 43, is also a published author of short stories and poetry in Hindi. And was a professional swimmer in his youth. After acclaimed turns in Ghoul and Tumhari Sulu, you’ll next see him play Saina Nehwal’s coach in the upcoming biopic. Here’s a look at how sport and entertainment continue to shape his fitness routine:
Baramullah, where I was born, is a small town; so is Hoshangabad in Madhya Pradesh, where I grew up. It meant a pressure-free childhood and lots of time for sports – I played hockey, badminton, table tennis, and swam in the Narmada all day.
A professional swimmer since Class 10, I won a bronze at the national level in college. Until then, I’d never seen a play. I saw my first – Habib Tanveer’s staging of Mudra Rakshasa – while at the Sports Authority of India hostel in Bhopal. It was magical. And overnight, I switched to theatre.
Yet sport is still my idea of fun. It keeps me fit and has given me a great trust in my body.
I only started going to the gym three months ago, mainly because sports require other people and people aren’t always free. It’s important to have a place you can regularly go, to keep your body in rhythm.
Rotating between the gym and different sports, I keep my body surprised. That way you burn fat more easily. I avoid building too much muscle. It makes your body stiff and makes it harder for you to do different roles – how do you play an ordinary middle-class Indian man if you have bulging muscles? I prefer to be lean.
When shooting, you don’t get enough sleep or the right food. It takes a toll on your body. Exercise is the only saving grace and helps you sleep well too. It’s important for our mental health, as actors.
I grew up eating samosas, paranthas, jalebis, kachoris… but it’s interesting how you don’t crave those things, once you change your food habits.
When I was exercising to lose weight after Kai Po Che, a friend gave me some great advice: “Eat everything, but ask yourself ‘is this food giving me anything?’”.
I’ve recently slashed sugar and meat intake. Today, instead of puri for breakfast, paratha three-four times a week, late dinners and lots of fried stuff, I have poha, fruits or eggs in the morning. As I follow intermittent fasting, I don’t touch food till 11 or 11.30 am, though I’m up by 6. Lunch is khichdi or something at 2.30 pm, a snack of eggs around 5 and sabzi with my favourite dal-chawal, for dinner by 8.30 pm.
I eat parathas and fried food only once a week. I’m down to one cup of tea a day, but it’s sugar-wali chai because the body needs everything. Crash diets make your skin lose its sheen. Besides, I don’t want to change myself completely, I just want to be a better version of myself.
At the day’s end, I unwind with a drink and when free from projects, take off travelling.
People always ask me whether dabbling in so much is stressful. Instead, it helps me as I’m easily bored. The important thing is to use each day as a journey inwards, and not outwards.