The actor’s physical transformation has captivated social media users but her story also shows a stereotypical mindset prevailing in the film industry
The lockdown period has been a difficult phase, especially for those used to an active lifestyle. Besides innovating workouts to suit your style at home, the lack of a fitness buddy was telling for most gym goers.
Actor Vidyullekha Raman knows. She would log on to YouTube and follow simple workout sessions.
But if not for her “accountability group” — a WhatsApp group of individuals with like-minded interests who ensure she keeps up the commitment to her fitness, a journey that she says started 18 months ago — the actor would have struggled.
“Each day, a workout challenge is posted and they make sure that I spend at least 20-30 minutes doing it. We have to post a video as proof,” she says.
Vidyullekha has opened up about the remarkable transformation in her physical appearance via social media posts over the last few days.
The actor has lost nearly 20 kilograms of body weight, and says she is happier for it. “It doesn’t mean I was any less happy when I was chubby. I loved myself then too. The only difference now is that I’m healthy,” says Vidyullekha.
The wake-up call, so to speak, happened with her health deteriorating. “When you are overweight, the hormonal imbalance is like a roller coaster,” she says, adding, “The kick was in January 2019, when I couldn’t fit into a dress that I had stitched for myself weeks before. I knew then that I had let myself go completely.”
A combination of keto and low-carb diet to go with the six-times-a-week workout sessions did the trick.
Although for Vidyullekha, shedding the extra pounds also required her to firm up mentally, considering she was threatened with a loss of opportunity in her line of work.
It did not matter that she is, perhaps, one of the few prominent female comics around in Tamil and Telugu films.
“I was told that I won’t get the roles I get today if I dropped weight. It points to a culture where the casting happens based on appearance and not on the basis of one’s talent,” she says, and adds: “When you hear it, you tend to develop an insecure feeling. I don’t know what the remedy is but I hope women continue to prove that talent speaks more than body measurements.”
In 2017, a teary-eyed Vidyullekha spoke about how the film industry perceives fat shaming as comedy during the press conference for the Dhanush-directorial, Power Pandi. She had words of praise for Dhanush, then, for not following the stereotype in his film.
However, Power Pandi remains one of the last notable Tamil films Vidyullekha has been a part of. She has since been plying her trade in Telugu cinema for the most part.
The sagely father
- The actor has spent the lockdown period at her home in Chennai. Her father, Mohan Raman, who has been roped in by Mani Ratnam for his magnum opus, Ponniyin Selvan, has been growing a beard ever since he signed on. Vidyullekha adds that he looks “distinguished and wise” in this appearance but she would love for him to get rid of the beard when possible. “I was telling him that I have forgotten how his face looked like without the beard,” she laughs, adding, “He cannot do anything since the production team wants the beard to grow longer. Hopefully, by the end of 2020, he will get to trim it a bit.”
Ask her if it was a conscious choice to stay away from Tamil films, she says: “I had done Tamil films in 2018 and 2019. They did not release, unfortunately. Two of my Tamil films are stuck due to COVID-19; one is with Vidharth and the other is a remake of my Telugu film Ninnu Kori with Atharvaa and Anupama [Parameswaran],” she says.
Vidyullekha will be seen in two prominent Telugu films; one featuring Bellamkonda Sai Sreenivas and the other being Prabhas’ Jaan.
“Lot of people assume that I am focussing all my energies on Telugu but the truth is I got more opportunities there. The Telugu film industry has realised my work and are giving me far more important characters. At the end of the day, I am happy to be a part of cinema,” she adds.