Actors Sanya Malhotra and Fatima Sana Shaikh shot to fame with director Nitesh Tiwari’s 2016 film, Dangal. They portrayed Indian female wrestlers Babita Phogat and Geeta Phogat in the Aamir Khan-starrer. But, finalising the girls wasn’t easy for Tiwari.
Recalling the extensive process, he says, “All the girls who were shortlisted had to go through medical check-ups. We had to do hormonal tests because some people can’t put on weight. They all were made to meet dieticians, and we tested their physical endurance. We shortlisted six girls, of which only three passed the tests. Those three then underwent 10 days of training to check if they can look the part.” The film went on to be a huge success at the box-office.
Tiwari adds that the selection process required the final actors to be good actors as well as good sportspeople. “A lot of them weren’t great actors, but amazing at wrestling. However, this film needed emotions as much as wrestling and physical capability. It would’ve been risky to not give importance to the emotional scenes... So, that’s how we chose Sanya and Fatima after the gruelling sessions,” says the filmmaker, who recently attended the Indian Film Festival Melbourne (IFFM) 2017 and conducted a master class for its audience.