Roadie-turned-VJ and now an actor, Gurbani Judge aka Bani J rose to fame with a bold portrayal of her character Umang Singh in Amazon Prime series Four More Shots Please!. She still has been receiving an overwhelmingly positive response for bringing out the character as authentically as possible. As of now, the actress has already started shooting for the third season of her modern woman drama. The actress has not only showed her acting prowess with her diverse roles, but has also redefined fitness and beauty standards for women across the world.
A proud fitness icon
Apart from her performance, her athletic body and fitness has also inspired many to hit gyms. Whether it is her shows or the brand endorsements her body resonates with what she plays, which led her to become a fitness icon of the youth. “It actually feels good. Even though it wasn’t a straight up goal of mine to be a fitness icon, I train and treat myself as an athlete, therefore it’s cool that people see the dedication,” begins the actress. In her opinion, to achieve any sort of goal in the gym, one needs to have a mind-set which is similar to the goal, “Thinking, behaving and living a lifestyle similar to your goal gets you closer to it.”
Despite the fact that all eyes are on her and her Instagram is flooded with the inspired fans, Bani doesn’t take it to the head and keeps that pressure away. “I don’t think there is any pressure involved in it at all. There is never a day where I have to wake up and go ‘oh I have to go to the gym because Instagram is waiting for me to post something.’ It’s not like that although they do question if I rest – they go like ‘Hi why no gym post?’ Apart from that I laugh at it actually because ‘I'm like it’s a rest day guys calm down’,” she shares.
While the actress is mostly busy shooting for several projects, she ensures to hit the gym at least once a day, which she says is her responsibility towards her. “There is definitely a responsibility that I hold myself accountable to and I have been doing this since I was 19. I only got more serious as time went on because I understood how much discipline and dedication is required to make it an absolute lifestyle,” she says.
For Bani, it is the key in getting the kind of gains she has, “Therefore, I have been enjoying the whole process. It’s awesome and I just love the fact that people are inspired by it and that it actually helps other people also to stay motivated.”
Workout in her genes
It is a fact that as an actress Bani has to stay fit and in certain body circumference, but she confirms that fitness has been a part of her foundation of life since she was a kid. She credits her fitness awareness to her mother who too was health conscious and did a lot of things to fight cancer. “We grew up extremely health oriented and maintained a healthy lifestyle. We were very well aware of the food that was healthy and not healthy. My mom used to go to the gym therefore egg whites, brown bread and all of these kinds of foods were a part of our lifestyle. Growing up in a household like that we were aware that health truly is wealth and if we don’t spend time investing on our health, later on we will spend a lot of money in trying not to be sick,” she reveals.
Surely, Bani has come a long way in terms of inspiring many women in India and across many countries to make health their first priority. Her fitness videos have crossed millions of views and she proudly says that they have inspired many people to see women in fitness and sports. However, she also points out that a huge aspect of people wanting to be fit has to do with vain goals and vanity goals. “It is great to a certain extent because it helps people be motivated until they reach their goal, but they easily get demotivated if they don’t see fast results. It is not realistic. People set very unrealistic goals to have faster results and they expect to lose weight overnight which is not possible. They don’t realise that they didn’t put on that weight overnight but gradually over the years. It is essential to give yourself enough time to counter the effects that are on your body,” she suggests.
Although the actress strongly believes in patience when it comes to shaping the body, she also agrees that the world too has become more media driven; and everything is about good looks and filters. “A lot goes behind face and body tuning. I have heard of people contouring their bodies in videos. According to me, it’s ridiculous and I can’t do it therefore it just makes me want to be more honest and open about my fitness journey and the kind of content I put out. I realise how rare it is for people to see unaltered videos and pictures and also kind of appreciate what you can do with your body naturally as opposed to just using filters for everything,” she believes.
Breaking the stereotypes, a long way to go
Just like every road is not as smooth as it looks, Bani too had her share of criticism. The actress not only had to bear the judgements of society for her role in Four More Shots Please!, but also had to deal with body shaming for her masculine body type.
Despite the criticism and hate, Bani continued with her choices and smashed all the stereotypes added to women and their conventional looks. It is no doubt that Indian society is still not ready to see women in anathletic body shape, and Bani feels there is still a lot of work required. “There is definitely a lot of work that needs to be done in the area of acceptance of muscular women. Especially when it comes to women who are physically fit or look different from what mainstream media is trying to portray beautiful women as. Media showcases a general blanket categorisation of women and their beauty. If they don’t fall under this blanket, then they are not beautiful. So, I feel this is a limiting factor that is put upon especially women. We already have enough trouble in the world and things to deal with, expectations to live up to,” slams the VJ and feels that beauty standards should be the last thing for women.
When asked if she feels that the things have changed and people have become more accepting, she confirms that for some time, she hasn’t come across anyone who has hit into her eyes with any comment. “I have become way more isolated since 2019 in terms of the kind of people I’m meeting and all of these people are not generally outspoken when they meet me straight up. We have keyboard voices (read people) on the internet (read society), which are always voicing opinions and have no idea about the topic. Therefore, it doesn’t really count but if somebody that I know passes a comment, I am aware that they are coming from a place of ignorance or they just don’t understand what fitness is about or are not used to seeing women who are physically fit, who lift. Though not knowing any better, I can’t really say it’s changed,” she confesses.
With all the odds, what comes as a ray of hope for Bani is her online community, which she says is extremely positive and open to seeing all her training videos. “I feel my videos have helped them have some sort of exposure in getting used to seeing women in fitness and sports and treating them as athletes,” she gushes.
With her rigorous workout sessions and passion for fitness, Bani has become a woman who is ‘fit and can lift’. Ever since her show became a hit, she has become the first choice for many brands, thanks to her inspiring fitness. Recently, she has collaborated with a leading European sports nutrition brand, Myprotein. And she says that the only way works for the endorsements is to use the product herself for authenticity. “I use all the products I endorse. It was pretty much like the easiest decision I had to make to endorse something because I am familiar with Myprotein products. I have used them when I was in the UK a few years ago.
Work on her mind
As we head towards concluding our conversation we ask what’s next on her mind... to which Bani says, “I want to focus more on my acting for the next few years. That’s what I’m focussing on and of course, fitness will happen alongside since it’s a huge part of my life.”