Set to make his debut in Kabir Sadanand’s youth-centric action-comedy film Fugly, Olympic boxer Vijender Singh talks about his career choices, why boxing is still important to him and what he plans to do next.
Tell us about your role in Fugly. Is it similar to your real-life profession? How did you cope?
In Fugly, I portray a college graduate from Delhi and my character, Gaurav Singh Ahlawat, belongs to a political family. Ahlawat and his group of friends are living in their own dreamscape, but things start changing for the worse after one particular incident and because of a cop, who is played by Jimmy Shergill.
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The role doesn’t essay my real-life profession. I am not playing a boxer, though in some scenes, I am seen boxing. Since it is a Delhi-based character, I could easily relate to the role. “Fugly” means a fight against “ugly”, and I share that philosophy. Kabir Sadanand, the director, helped me a lot. He made me really comfortable on the sets since he has been a sportsperson himself. The other crew members would go by car and we would ride our bikes together to Leh. I have faced the camera before, a moving camera is a different thing.
How did you get the role?
Once, Akshay (Kumar) and I were having a mock sparring session in Chandigarh at a public event, where he jokingly promised that since I made him box, he would make me act. So I auditioned for the role and bagged the project. Once my character was decided, the other actors — Mohit Marwah, Kiara Advani, Arif Lamba — were selected. We spent a week to 10 days hanging out with each other and getting to know each other better. Now we are good friends.
There were rumours that you were offered a film opposite Govinda’s daughter Narmada. What made you accept Fugly?
I received many movie offers ever since I won bronze at the Beijing Olympics, but I was holding back for a good script. This film had a good banner and it was a good role.
Who doesn’t want to be associated with the glamour industry and enjoy all the attention? I would love to get into films, modelling, singing or anything else that comes my way. I don’t want to refuse anyone or anything.
So are movies your new calling?
Not at all. I don’t want to leave boxing. I did not attend the last training camp because I was busy with police training since I am still a DSP with the Haryana Police. But I decided to keep my police training on hold and focus on my boxing this time. My boxing training camp started from April 15 at Netaji Subhash National Institute of Sports, Patiala. Therem I will train for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in July and Asian Games in Korea in September, this year. I am focussed on those games at present.
Acting happened by the way. A nice offer came along and I was able to create time for shooting in December and January 2014. After I competed in the World Championships, Almaty, Kazakhstan in October 2013, in the 75 kg category, I lost out in the second or third round. But I had a few months spare time. It is then that I thought of trying my hand in movies.
After the World Championships, there was nothing to do, so I thought it was better than sitting idle. I just had the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games to look forward to in the coming months, as there have been a number of bans against Indian sports organisations, such as the International Amateur Boxing Association and the Indian Olympic Association from the past one year.
Do you think it’s unfair that your choice to enter Bollywood is being questioned?
Why doesn’t anybody question me when I perform my duties as a police officer? Even other boxers — for example, Mike Tyson and Mohammad Ali — have acted. I liked Tyson in Hangover. I feel I can do the same.
I did my first shooting campaign as a model in 2005, and then shot for Maxim and Men’s Health magazines. But people started noticing me only after I won a bronze medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. But even after that, I got an Asian Games gold medal, Commonwealth Games medal and a World Championship medal. I played for many other tournaments, too, including the Germany Open Gold. Something or the other keeps happening in my life and I do whatever comes my way.
I had heard that when people appear in movies, they become immortal. Look at Amrish Puri saab. We still remember him through his movies. I would want immortality.
Right now, it’s just the movie. Later, it will be the Commonwealth Games. Then, I will focus on the Rio 2016 Games. I want to avenge my defeat at the London 2012 Olympics.