In December 2019, the actor shared shirtless photos of his muscular physique on Instagram, where he explained that he had “never thought” he’d be “one of those people who would post a thirsty shirtless,” but that he had worked “way too hard for way too long” to not show off his results.
In the caption, Nanjiani had explained that he’d decided to “transform” how he looked after learning that he had gotten the role in the Marvel superhero movie, before thanking his team of nutritionists and personal trainers who helped him.
However, in a new interview with GQ, the Silicon Valley star revealed that, in the year and a half since he shared the photos, he has grown “uncomfortable” talking about his body.
“I’ve found out over the last year and a half, since I did that picture, that I am very uncomfortable talking about my body - and it’s become less and less and less comfortable,” he said.
Nanjiani, who plays Kingo, a superhero who blends in as a Bollywood star, in the Marvel movie, then spoke candidly about his reasons for bulking up, with his first being a desire to look like a typical superhero.
“If I’m playing the first South Asian superhero, I want to look like someone who can take on Thor or Captain America, or any of those people,” he explained, adding that he also wanted to look like the Bollywood stars that he grew up watching. “I was like, I want this to be believable. I want to feel that kind of powerful in this role.”
The 43-year-old Big Sick writer also hoped that his transformation pictures would change the way he was perceived by the industry, admitting that he wanted “different” opportunities.
“I wanted different types of opportunities. I wanted the industry to see me differently,” he said. “With brown people, there are very specific roles that we used to get. Either we’re terrified or we’re causing terror. Those are the only two options we had.
“Either I’m fixing your computer, or I’m, like, planning something at the stock exchange.”
However, according to Nanjiani, there have been unexpected downsides to his physical transformation, as the actor noted that he now worries he may be perpetuating an image of toxic masculinity just by being “jacked”.
The actor’s concerns stem from an acknowledgement that men are often taught “to be useful by using physical strength or our brain in an aggressive, competitive way,” and that by changing his appearance, he unintentionally turned into “what the male ideal has been”.
Nanjiani also previously revealed that striving towards the physical changes contributed to body image struggles and that he experienced “body dysmorphia”.
“I don’t want to discount people who genuinely have debilitating body issues,” he told Men’s Health in March 2020. “I don’t have that. But I did start getting some body dysmorphia. I’d look in the mirror and I’d see my abs - and when I looked again, they would fade. I would just see the flaws.”
Eternals will be released on 5 November.