Stage sizzler

Pulkit Samrat probably arrived in Singapore knowing that he would be the topic of some Taj Express-related conversations. After all, he was playing the lead role.

What he definitely didn't expect was that he would become the talking point of the Indian community here... even among those who didn't watch the show.

Reason: His hunky body.

Samrat did merit plenty of applause for his portrayal of Vasu, the thief with a heart of gold, at the end of each show. But it was when he took his shirt off, very much in the vein of his mentor Salman Khan, that the applause reached deafening levels.

Nobody's complaining though. In fact, after each show following the world premiere night on June 7, audience members, mostly women and girls, queued to take photographs with Samrat - unfortunately for them his shirt was back on by then - and the show's leading lady Pallavi Sharda, who played his love interest Meera.

One woman was overhead commenting: "I want to put him in my pocket and take him home." She had to settle for a photo with the good-looking actor and the rest of the cast.

There were also the inevitable comparisons to Salman and even Ranbir Kapoor with whom he has a slight resemblance.

When tabla! caught up with the actor on the last night of the show's run on June 10, he was exhausted and hungry but very pleased that the Singapore audience reacted so enthusiastically to the show and him.

He shared with this reporter his extremely strict diet which he started 11/2 months ago to buff up for the Taj Express debut run in Singapore.

"I call it the Kick Ass Diet. I had to cut everything. It was very strict," he said.

For the first 10 days of the diet, he had only protein shakes and fibre drinks with fish oil tablets. After that, his meals consisted largely of 150g of boiled chicken with no spices or salt - salt causes water retention - and 50 to 60g of sweet potato six times a day.

His workout included circuit training while the "cardio was from all the dancing we were doing". Considering how energetic each number was, it would make anyone lose weight.

In Singapore, he survived on salads - no salt or dressing - and apples and oranges till the curtain came down on the final show, earning him the admiration of his co-actors.

But once the spotlights were off him, all he wanted to do, besides sleep for a week, was eat. "I am going to eat everything - burgers, pizza, biryani, crabs, prawns, squid. And I really want to try laksa. I tried it a little bit and it tasted so good. I am going to misbehave with my food for another two days and then I will go back to my diet," he said.

He hopes that he will be able to make a return trip to Singapore with the Taj Express. "The crowd was really lovely and we received so much energy from the audience each night. And I felt so lucky that we had repeat audiences who were there twice or thrice. It gave us a lot of encouragement," he said.

And it helps, he added, that he loves Singapore and the buzz around it. And judging from the crowd's reactions, Singapore loves you too, Pulkit.

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