Kavi Kumar Azad passes away: Actors engage in drastic weight loss or gain for roles, but at what cost?

Aishwarya Kulkarni

Jul 10, 2018 20:15:55 IST

Television actor Kavi Kumar Azad who played Dr Hansraj Hathi in the popular Hindi show Taarak Mehta Ka Ooltah Chashma died on Monday as a result of cardiac arrest. The actor complained of uneasiness on the morning of 9 July but was declared dead when he was brought to a hospital.

The larger issue that remains even after Azad's death is the unfortunate consequences for actors whose roles require them to be of a certain weight. In Azad's case, he played the role of an over-weight doctor in the show (since 2009). Azad suffered from health complications due to obesity and according to cast members would arrive for shoots even in the times of illness.

This isn't the first one has heard of an actor risking his/her health for a role. The kinds of lifestyle changes that actors undergo for various roles are often publicised as revelations of 'surprising' transformations, followed by detailed interviews where the actor discloses the process involved in the drastic weight loss or weight gain. What often gets glossed over in these narratives is the health risk involved.

(L) Ranbir Kapoor, bulked up for his role in Sanju. (R) Kavi Kumar Azad as Dr Hathi in Tarak Mehta...

(L) Ranbir Kapoor, bulked up for his role in Sanju. (R) Kavi Kumar Azad as Dr Hathi in Tarak Mehta...

On the pitfalls of actors undergoing drastic transformations nutritionist Sunita Dube says, "Actors have certain role requirements and they get so into their prep that they don’t mind going beyond their normal body-weight — either gaining or lose it. I don’t know the actor (Azad) personally but what I've heard is that he was very over-weight and obesity would have been a major cause in his death. Most actors and film stars are also stressed due to heavy work or shooting schedules so they are not able to keep up their diet, medicines or exercise — whatever they have been advised by doctors to follow, and such kind of irregularities also cause further problems."

Also read: Actors who underwent extreme weight gain/loss for their roles

Dube says weight gain/loss should be done gradually, with the body given ample time to adjust. "It (the change) will last longer, as compared to when you suddenly plan to gain or lose weight by adopting unhealthy diets due to which you’re not getting the required nutritional supplements."

Rajkumar Hirani's latest film, Sanju, may be making waves at the box office but actor Ranbir Kapoor had to put on 17-18 kg for the role and then subsequently lose it all for the later parts of the movie. Even Aamir Khan, to play the role of a wrestler, gained 25 kg for the movie Dangal and then lost that added weight, coming back to a leaner version. But these were nothing compared to what actor Randeep Hooda underwent for his role as a prisoner of war in the movie Sarbjit. The actor lost 18 kg over a span of 28 days and when interviewed by Mumbai Mirror about the same, he called the process 'physical and mental torture'.

"Sometimes actors want to lose weight drastically or gain it in few weeks, but it is not the way to do it. I understand it’s their bread and butter and sometimes they want to reach a particular goal but they tend to go overboard, which is not right," says fitness expert Althea Shah.

"If you want to lose weight you can follow a diet pattern and follow exercise and safely lose weight. Now gaining weight takes time. Because here, nutrition is more important. You cannot just go on eating fats to put on weight because that affects your heart. So you need to have the right balance of food and nutrition. You need to eat more calories than what you’re expending. But you have to ensure that the calories come from the right sources. People tend to follow what actors do and it is dangerous when people follow fads without understanding what their own body needs. Every body is different!"Althea cautions.

The 'everything in moderation' philosophy is one Jaipur-based doctor Drishya Pillai emphasises as well. Dr Pillai says that while extreme weight gain and loss in a short span of time is "definitely not a healthy practice", the "body is resilient".  "Some (use of) steroids and weight gain — as with Sanju and Dangal — doesn't cause much harm. But if Kavi Kumar Azad was advised to lose weight, then it's a different story. Obesity worsens the prognosis for (any) patient."

Sadly, the reality is that actors do have to undergo dramatic physical transformations for their roles, and while they my often have expert help, the practice still isn't without its drawbacks. As Dr Anupam Rajoria (general medicine) points out: "The risk (with Azad) was glaringly apparent. I saw a friend's WhatsApp status mourning his loss. Considering that he succeeded in making people laugh and being remembered and even having strangers feel sad about his death, which might have been what he wanted in life, is it up to us to decide if it was worth it? It obviously isn't a healthy practice. Everyone knows about balanced diet and regular exercise and proper sleep and all the other adages. Maybe we can ask ourselves why we ourselves want to stay healthy but 'demand' from a show/movie that it ask its actors to adopt unhealthy practices to stay in the public's eye."

— With inputs by Devansh Sharma

Updated Date: Jul 10, 2018 20:15:55 IST