KRIPA Shankar Bishnoi was the topic of conversation at last Sunday’s episode of Koffee With Karan, with the three Dangal actors, Aamir Khan, Fatima Sana Shaikh and Sanya Malhotra. The 40-year-old
wrestler and coach is the man behind the flawless tackles by the cast of the film. Based on the life of wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat and his daughters Geeta Phogat and Babita Kumari, the film tracks how they eventually won the gold and silver
medal respectively in the 2010 Commonwealth Games
Kripa, winner of two gold medals in the 2005 Commonwealth Games, was approached by Aamir Khan Productions in 2015 for the first time. “I first thought it was a joke, I disconnected the call. Eventually I met the team and Aamir asked me to select the actresses who are fit for the roles (for Geeta and Babita),” says the Arjuna Awardee. Going back in time, the current coach to the Indian women’s wrestling team tells us that he was introduced to the sport by his uncle Sriram Bishnoi, who was a national-level wrestler. Sriram had built an akhada at home and trained his sons and nephews there. “When
I was on the sets of Dangal, I could relate it with my life story,” says the Indore-based coach. Kripa won his first local competition in 1988, at the age of 12, and there was no stopping after that.
Behind the scenes
Kripa tells us that Sanya and Fatima already had the explosive strength when he first saw their audition. “I felt that they are willing to learn and designed strategies that would make them more competitive against each other. From their diet that included a lot of high-protein food to their continuous practice, I took care of everything. And Aamir genuinely wanted to make sure that every technique he does is right,” adds Kripa.
The wrestler also tells us that he had just one condition before he signed for the film and Aamir accepted that happily. “My only condition was that the film should not portray wrestling in any bad light or in a funny way, and the rules of the 2010 Commonwealth Games must be followed,” he says. Kripa says that the wrestling scene for women in India has improved a lot over the years, and he hopes that the movie will help empower women further.
The film releases today.