Lena has been around for 20 years now essaying powerful character roles. The Malayali audience has a special fondness for her. She has no qualms about being seen in senior or deglamorized roles. But the actor is particular about one thing: fitness. And that’s what she’s into these days despite her many acting commitments.
Being a busy professional herself, Lena knows how difficult it is to stay healthy and be in form when life’s hectic schedules clash with healthy eating and having your food on time. When sensible, timely and healthy food habits go for a toss, it’s the body that bears the brunt of it. From then on, it’s a constant battle with body flab.
Breezing in with optimism and a definite plan is Lena with aakruti, her slimming regimen, which also happens to be a set-up devoted to bringing back to shape bodies that have been given up for good. “You are beautiful,” says aakruti’s tagline and strives to keep them so. With its new techniques in body-shaping, this slimming shop in Edappally, Kochi, is a busy hub with celebrities and others swearing by its effective ways of burning body fat.
A very enthusiastic Lena takes readers on a virtual tour of aakruti.
Why the name aakruti?
“The branding called for an apt name. It took a lot of time to zero in on a name. It was my partner Vrinda who suggested aakruti. There couldn’t have been a better name for this endeavor. Yes, aakruti or “shape” is one place where you get your shape back to retain it. Aakruti beckons us with its shapely and very fetching logo, designed by a firm called Brain Wash.
How was the slimming concept born?
“My friends Louisa, Vrinda and Netto of Show Rider Entertainments are my partners in the Kochi unit of aakruti. Louisa, my childhood buddy is a physiotherapist too. About two years ago, I used to ponder over my weight gain wondering where to go and how to shed it, when Louisa who was running a small-time business in physiotherapy asked me to check out her techniques. I was amazed by the results. I shed seven kilos in 15 days! Louisa was already planning to open aakruti, her slimming shop in Kozhikode, along with her Dubai-based friend. They wanted me to be their brand ambassador, but as I was totally bowled over by their slimming techniques, I decided to partner with them instead. Aakruti, which got going in Kozhikode two years ago, is doing well there. We’ve been in Kochi for just about a month and the response is quite encouraging.
Aakruti and confidence. How does that work?
“Confidence or the lack of it is what a lot of people struggle with. There’s no denying that a fit and shapely body can give a big boost to your confidence. A lot of celebrities walk into aakruti. The more illustrious you are, the greater the need to keep yourself in shape. People become more conscious of their bodies when they move in wider circles. The concept of a beautiful body creeps in when you are called upon to face a challenge. It could be a photo-shoot or an audition for a movie role or a stage presence before a huge gathering. If your body is out of shape, you become so painfully conscious of it and this robs you of your confidence.
“I know this for a fact. Two months back, I had an extra 10 kilos on me. I used to be acutely aware of this during photo shoots and this played with my confidence. When you are happy with your body, it gives you the confidence to go for more challenges. On the contrary, if you are not, you become so self-conscious.
What are aakruti’s techniques?
“Everything is based on physiotherapy. No dieting or frightening workouts. We help you with a diet plan and your food timings. Today’s work pace seldom lets you eat on time and when you eat, you unknowingly gorge on food. Once you start physiotherapy, you become keenly aware of your body. You need to drink a lot of water. We have no machine workouts. A physiotherapy machine does the work here. It burns fat through muscle stimulation, a technique though quite popular the world over, is only catching on in India.
“The very same physio machines, which relieve pain, are the ones that can burn your fat as well. It has no side effects. Slimming in aakruti involves no rigorous exercises, special slimming medicines or fat-burning injections. Within a few days, the results become quite visible. Everything is done at an even pace. The month-long treatment involves 15 sessions. Done on alternate days, each session is of one or two hours duration.
Who are your clients?
“People, irrespective of age or gender, walk in. Everybody wants to be fit. We offer no special diet here. But we guide them to a special regimen, which they can follow even after the sessions here are over.
“People would do anything to shed even five kilos, to be able to slip into those stylish clothes bundled away or strut around in the trends on display everywhere. Your start experiencing a transformation once you start slimming down. It’s a new “you” and that’s thrilling. This is the fulfillment I get out of this business. This positivity spreads and that’s how our business thrives.
“We have more clients, especially professionals, during the morning and evening sessions. The day hours are for home-makers. That’s their “me” time. A lot of people, from cardiac patients to ortho cases, come to aakruti willing to give the physio care a try. People want to shed weight.
“Kochi is cosmopolitan. Attitudes are positive here. Nobody wants to stay obese and die obese. People are aware of their weight. They seek answers as to how the obesity could have set in and how to get rid of it. They go for memberships in gyms, but seldom check in. The regulars are the truly disciplined ones. There are other fitness options like Zumba, but only a nimble-footed minority goes to such dance studios.
“To begin with, people may go with strenuous workouts, but once the strain starts showing, nothing will induce them to continue with the exercises. Aakruti is different. You can watch the telly and relax in the comfort of the AC while the machine does the toning.
“Here’s where you have your time. No worries, not a care, no TV, no books, no music, just nothing. It’s you, your time and your peace. This is what you get in aakruti.
“It’s natural for people to shy away from exercise when the body weight bogs you down. But if there’s someone to help you give it a try, you slip into a pattern of exercising. This is what aakruti does for you. It gently prods you on. We offer a lot of packages, from exclusive weight loss to body shaping, with brides going in for the latter.
“The bridal body shaping can be done in a fortnight or so. It’s effective in that it tones up the skin’s texture. The flip side of sudden weight loss is wrinkling of the skin. This is taken care of in aakruti.”
Image is of no consequence
“Acting was always my passion, not fame, image or career. There was even a time when I thought of an alternative means of livelihood. But looking back on the last 20 years, I know how much cinema has become a part of me. It’s my bread and butter, my passion. My effort was to perfect versatility. I was never obsessed with the thought of my screen presence or how best I could project my image. If I could effortlessly carry as many varied roles as I could, that for me was my concept of success.
Cinema too has changed
“When I came in 20 years ago, the hero-heroine-villain formula was still going strong. Then came Big B, touted as NewGen cinema. I was back in the circuit after a short break then. I found the switch to the GenNxt cinema very refreshing and soon enough I found myself becoming a part of it.
“There’s a lot of space for women-centric roles now. Even if the screen time is only for five minutes, if your role is arresting, the effect lingers. There was a time when the focus was only on the main character. We still remember the roles immortalized by Kuthiravattom Pappuchettan, Oduvil Chettan and KPAC Lalitha Chechi. But then, their characters were predictable. Now that element has gone from Malayalam cinema. Nothing and no one is predictable. You don’t know who or what brings in the twist. That’s a welcome trend.
How about women-power in Malayalam cinema?
“A predominant presence of women in cinema is a welcome move. However, I’ve never felt the need for a man-woman discrimination. It’s been 20 years and that’s a long time in the film fraternity. This is my family. That’s precisely why I don’t see a man and a woman as two separate entities. To me, what matters more is humanity. Nor have I felt the need for any special guidance. I’m not a member of the Women’s Collective. Hence, I’ve not been too preoccupied with it.
What’s in the pipeline?
“I’m doing Aadhi now, with a Vaishak production coming up next. I’ve also committed to Saji Surendran’s film. Now that I’m fit and fine, I’m raring to go. I feel confident about myself.”
Celebrity customer M.G.Sreekumar says:
“I do celebrity interviews for Dubai’s Hit FM. That’s when I chanced to see Lena. There was this perceptible change in her. That’s how I discovered the secrets of aakruti and how my wife Lekha and I landed there. I can see the changes for myself. I have a new treadmill at home, which I plan to sell as I seldom use it. We have a sprawling garden too. But I never walk around. The gym too is out for me. If I sweat a lot after all those exercises, it affects my voice. I like aakruti’s style of toning up. They’re not tough on me. When I came in I weighed 88 kilos. I trimmed down to 85 in four days.
“I don’t eat rice anymore. That’s it. No strict dos and don’ts. All I want is a flat tummy while on stage. I’m done listening to jokes on my belly. So I thought I’d give aakruti a shot. The results are positive.”