Bhubaneswar, Oct. 28: Flexing their muscles and flaunting chiselled athletic physiques, actors such as Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hrithik Roshan and John Abraham have inspired generations of fitness freaks to bulk up and enhance their appearance.
This craze for beefed-up bodies seems to have reached a crescendo in the fast developing city of Bhubaneswar with thousands of youngsters hopping on to the bodybuilding bandwagon.
Ask Rashmi Ranjan, a Sanskrit postgraduate student of Utkal University here, whose obsession with a sinewy look has paid rich dividends.
Rashmi recently won the Ekamra bodybuilding competition and has other laurels such as Mr Odisha and Mr Eastern India championship to his credit.
“I never intended to be a bodybuilding champion. My family nudged me to train at a gym since I was skinny. I love working out had participated in the championships only to represent my gym,” the 23-year-old said.
While many of them make their mark in bodybuilding championships, a few others have turned out to be luckier as their fetish has fetched them jobs.
Veteran power-lifter and founder of Utkal Karate School, Hari Prasad Patnaik, feels that having a good physique throws open many job opportunities.
There is reservation in several central government departments and certain public sector units for those with a bodybuilding background.
“There are about 10,000 gym-goers in the city, but only 10 of them might be pursing it as a career option. Most boys hit the gym to enhance their visual appeal,” Patnaik said about the real motivation behind the burgeoning gym culture.
Jitendra Jena, trainer at a gym in Nayapalli, echoed this opinion. “Only older people hit the gym for fitness. The younger lot, barring a few sportspersons such as rugby players who are mostly students, are heavily influenced by film stars to work on their muscles,” he said.
Patnaik said going to the gym is becoming an indispensable part of a youngster’s life.
“It grooms your personality, a prerequisite for any job. But being a bodybuilder requires discipline. Most of these so-called bodybuilders consume protein powder at the initial stage, which drastically reduces their body’s capacity to extract protein out of food. Consequently, when they stop working out, they become skinny,” he added.
However, some gym-goers did not seem to mind using protein supplements to boost their physique.
“I don’t want stamina and strength. I just want the right look,” said Amit Kumar, an aspiring model.
An official of a reputable national security provider agency said that the requirement of bodybuilders in Odisha was high.
“While selecting a candidate we keep in mind certain specifications for height and weight, but lay equal emphasis on character attributes and educational qualification. Even if some candidates do not have the right height, we hire them if they have a good physique. Most of our clients in the state prefer someone with medical fitness or a pistol licence,” he said.
The demand for a bodybuilder as security guard in mining areas, jewellery stores and nightclubs was also growing in the city.
The official said while clients mostly preferred to hire professional bodybuilders from north India, the local boys have now started to bask in favour.
Rakesh Kumar Swain, a former bouncer at a five-star hotel in the city, has a word of advice for youngsters who wish to pursue bodybuilding as a career.
“Building the prefect body requires a lot of self-discipline and investment. We may work out a lot, but to maintain a physique, we need regular intake of eggs, milk, bananas, paneer and other high-protein, healthy food at frequent intervals throughout the day. That can be an expensive proposition,” he said.
Manmath Mishra, general secretary of the Odisha Bodybuilding Association, summed it up saying: “The sport of bodybuilding is globally known. It has a bright future and can get sportsmen jobs as well.”