Saina actor Eshan Naqvi shares about champion’s diet, training Parineeti Chopra


Having created quite a rage on the Internet ever since he featured opposite Parineeti Chopra in ‘Main Hoon Na Tere Saath‘ song from upcoming sports flick, Saina, debut actor Eshan Naqvi has taken social media by storm with netizens inquiring about this newbie. The 29-year-old essays the role of ace Indian shuttler and Saina Nehwal’s husband, Parupalli Kashyap in the biopic while Parineeti plays the titular role.

Eshan is a Lucknow lad who comes from a family of sportspersons with his father serving as district sports officer (DSO) in Pilibhit and Lucknow and retiring as regional sports officer in Gorakhpur to his elder sister, Parssa Naqvi, being Saina’s batchmate and also an international badminton player. Inspired by her, Eshan started training for the game and continued to play and win singles as well as doubles even after he shifted to Maharashtra at the age of 13.

Eshan Naqvi to debut as an actor with Saina(Eshan Naqvi)

At 16, the young boy became youngest Maharashtra state champion and went on to play internationally at senior level. Though sports as a career was inevitable for him, Eshan suffered a lower back injury when he was 17 which cut short his badminton career but could not diminish his dream to return to the court. In an interview with Hindustan Times, Eshan Naqvi opens up about bouncing back from the slump to training Parineeti Chopra as a shuttler in Saina biopic and some fitspiration to take us through the rest of the week.

How important is a diet for a sportsperson?

Diet actually plays 50% role and is as important as the recovery part in training. We cannot over-train thinking our body can pull it off. It will lead to strain and we would have to go to rehab. When we train ourselves to a limit where the body gives up, the energy is restored from what diet we take. The better we eat or the better our diet, the better is our recovery. So, everything is a balance between diet and recovery and training in terms of performance.

You have coached Parineeti for Saina biopic and have been a shuttler yourself. What is a champion’s diet according to you before and after a match during daytime or evening?

Before a match we cannot have protein. It is usually post workout that we can have protein so that the body can get slow energy but before a match it has to be more carbs, carb-oriented diet like rice but not chicken and mutton because they are slow to digest and will give you energy later on after a match. At a time when you are playing an explosive game where a lot of athletic skills and strength is required, you cannot go with a bloated tummy. You have to eat at least 2.5 hours before to maintain a good physique.

How do you manage this diet (of rice etc.) when travelling abroad?

We take a lot of stuff with us, a lot of ready to eat food when travelling but healthy alternatives are also available widely like all kinds of breads, butter etc. that are a good source of energy. So now it is not that difficult compared to earlier times but when travelling to remote places, then there is no other option but to carry your own food.

Eshan Naqvi and Parineeti Chopra training together(Eshan Naqvi)
Eshan Naqvi and Parineeti Chopra training together(Eshan Naqvi)

When Parineeti was shooting in London for The Girl on The Train, you had flown down for her training sessions which began as early as 5 in the morning. What did this training include and how was it different from her training in India?

When we were training in India, I knew exactly what her schedule was like and I had flown down, I already had her schedule so time restrictions did not majorly affect Pari’s training. However, the two schedules and training sessions were very different because in London she had to go through a very straining schedule. Knowing that her schedule was very tight, initially we worked on her diet that included rice, beans and healthy fats so that her shooting and our training did not make her less energetic.

Pari woke at 4.30 am to train and then go for her shoot at 7am or 8am. So sometimes we used to train for badminton, sometimes we trained in the gym, sometimes there were workouts in the pool and other times on the ground. Though she had to learn from the basics, she also had to improve physically so we introduced her with everything related to badminton like agility, footwork, reflexes and speed work gradually with time. By the end of our training schedule we had covered everything instead of just sticking to the basics.

We had to do a lot of endurance work because it is the first thing to learn and cover in any sport. Then comes basic strengthening in the gym of knees, shoulders and back so that there is no muscle injury, no rupture, no tear and then came working on the speed part of it.

According to you, how does one train like a professional player?

When you are planning to take up a sport professionally, that sport has to be a priority even if there are distractions on the way or even education. There has to be a proper schedule with sport as a priority because currently there is a lot of competition and you cannot go 2 days or 3 days without working on your basic drill. So if you are taking up a sport professionally, there has to be a lot of sacrifices with your family chipping in for support.

What are the best warm up exercises to play your best and avoid injuries?

First, start with a slow jog and not rush into running or start playing. Do basic stretches for back, shoulders, quads and knees to wake up every muscle. Then speed your warm up so that your body is charged up. Once your body is charged up, there is no chance of an injury unless there is a wrong movement. Do cross trainer, do basic cycling, running, exercises with a resistance band for strengthening.

What gives you a boost to lead a fit lifestyle?

(Laughs) Throughout my life, I have been around sportspersons. I have been born in their family and I have grown up with sportspersons so I have been a fitness enthusiast for as long as I can remember.

What does a fitness routine in Eshan Naqvi’s daily life look like?

Right now it is all messed up due to running around for promotions but usually it starts with a good cup of lemon tea-green tea in the morning, a slice of brown bread with some peanut butter and then straight to workout for 1-1.5 hours, take good protein like eggs or sprouts or dry fruits post workout. Lunch is more inclined towards salad while in the evening I opt for corns or chana, a bowl of fruits which has a mix of possibly all the fruits that are available in the market and protein shake with it. I avoid roti and take a bowl of dal and brown rice for dinner.

What is your fitness goal for 2021?

To avoid junk and be consistent in workouts even when hanging out with my family and friends.

Which exercise makes you feel most passionate and alive?

I think when I am working out on my legs… legs are my favourite. I would never skip leg days at the gym.

What is your personal take away from Sania Nehwal’s inspiring life and that of Arjuna Awardee Parupalli Kashyap?

The thing I admire about Saina is that she is a person who will never give up no matter what the situation or physical condition or circumstances are. She will fight all odds till the end. That is the mark of a champion and a good player and that is what I admire and takeaway from her – to keep on trying in life until I arrive where I want. Parupalli Anna is all about elegance and a little bit of chill. What I learnt from him is that with everything, you got to enjoy life, take it slow, take it easy. The balance that they have is amazing.

I have spent some time with Anna in my initial badminton days so there was a lot to learn from the kind of player that he is. Despite being a sports icon in terms of badminton and a Commonwealth gold medalist, he is all about doing what you gotta do but also taking a chill pill and enjoying life at the same time.

After your career as a shuttler was cut short by a lower back injury, how did you prepare yourself mentally and physically to come out of the slump?

When I was injured and came back home, the recovery time was flooded with negative speculations in my mind which pulled me low and towards depression. That was when my mom introduced me to maintaining a journal where she encouraged me to put my thoughts to words. This emotional writing made me discover that I have a knack for writing couplets and lyrics which opened a doorway for writing song lyrics and later composing songs.

I tried my hands on the guitar and soon realised that music added a lot of positive vibes in my life which taught me that things are slow in life sometimes but you have to accept what comes your way. My rehab was going on at the same time and my coach Shrikant Vad kept in touch which kept me going.

What is your fitness advice for beginners?

Start with basic fitness or maybe join gymnastics or athletics to get an edge of being a sportsperson. If you are new to workouts or used to do it but stopped during the coronavirus pandemic since it is hard to find motivation to exercise at home, align your schedule to the needs of your body and start slow with an early morning walk of 15-20 minutes. Then after a month, you can add a little bit of jog then come back and do some basic stretches to warm up like I told before. You can then add running and push yourself gradually with significant breaks in between.

Amaal Malik, Parineeti Chopra and Eshan Naqvi at a song launch for Saina(Eshan Naqvi)
Amaal Malik, Parineeti Chopra and Eshan Naqvi at a song launch for Saina(Eshan Naqvi)

When not working out or composing songs, Eshan can be found watching documentaries, plays and band performances or prepping up for what is coming next, in his leisure time. Directed by Amole Gupte and bankrolled by Bhushan Kumar, Krishan Kumar, Sujay Jairaj and Rashesh Shah, Saina biopic hits the theatre screens on March 26, 2021.

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