Moments before the winner of the Mr India 2016 contest was announced by Bollywood superstar Hrithik Roshan in Mumbai on November 23, Vishnu Raj S Menon, who was standing in the last row among the 16 participants with his eyes closed, was praying to his favourite god: Lord Vishnu. And then arrived the magical moment, when Hrithik announced his name. And a stunned Vishnu made his way to the stage.
“The first thought that came to my mind was that now I will have to represent India at the Mr World competition,” says 25-year-old Vishnu, who became the first Malayali to win the Mr India title. And when Vishnu shook Hrithik’s hand, the latter said, “I can see, in your eyes, the hard work that you have put in. You deserve to win.”
All this was a fairy tale for Vishnu because just three years ago, Vishnu had met with a bike accident in Thrissur. His thigh bone was dislocated and he was not able to walk for three months. “I remained bed-ridden for six months,” he says. At that time, Vishnu was doing civil engineering from M V J College of Engineering in Bengaluru. Anyway, once Vishnu recovered, he returned to his college.
But the turning point in his life came when he took part in the Models Unlimited contest held in Bengaluru in October last year, under the guidance of Prasad Bidapa, the well-known fashion stylist and choreographer. “Prasad Sir taught me the basics of how to walk on the ramp, look good and radiate confidence,” says Vishnu. “He also spoke about the importance of mental strength.”
For the Mr India contest, Vishnu lifted weights, and did endurance running. He was also on a strict diet, where he mostly ate egg whites and drank green tea. As a result, the six feet tall Vishnu weighed 82 kg, and displayed rippling chest and thigh muscles, apart from a six-pack.
In the Mr Active round, Vishnu did 50 push-ups, sit-ups, and burpees each, ran 20 laps on a 400 m track, carried a 40 kg sandbag on his shoulders and pushed a large tyre for 100 metres. In the end Vishnu ranked among the top six contestants. And in the photogenic round, he bagged the first place. But all that is past. Now, Vishnu is training hard for the biennial Mr World title, which will take place in London in July 2018. For that, he has already received words of advice from Rohit Khandelwal, the reigning Mr World. “At present, I am doing a lot of cardiovascular training, apart from lifting weights,” says Vishnu. He is also taking personality development courses, and dance as well as acting classes.
Contestants from more than 40 countries will take part. “With self-confidence, hard work and a strong will, I think I can win Mr World,” says Vishnu, who will be the first Malayali to take part in this international pageant. Advising youngsters, he says, “Just be yourself. It’s only your confidence that can help you achieve your goals. Don’t be disheartened if you don’t win. Sometimes, it’s the experience that matters the most.”