Radhe's Bhutan connection: How a former royal bodyguard bagged a role in Salman Khan's film
Sangay Tsheltrim got his Bollywood break when he first met Salman as a fan on the sets of 'Dabangg 3'.
Former professional bodybuilder, army man and royal bodyguard Sangay Tsheltrim has notched up a new and glamorous accomplishment - a debut in the Hindi film industry alongside an A-list star.
From being a fan who met Salman Khan on the sets of Dabangg 3, Sangay, who hails from Bhutan, the beautiful country that conceptualized the ‘Gross National Happiness Index’, went on to bag a role in Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai, playing now in cinemas across the UAE.
Sangay, who trained at the National Defense Academy in Pune, India, as a Bhutanese army cadet and served as an elite bodyguard to Bhutan’s Prince Jigyel Ugyen Wangchuk, also represented his country at various bodybuilding competitions, starred in local films, and founded his own gym in Bhutan.
We chatted with Sangay to get a feel of what it was like to make his debut in Bollywood as a baddie in a big-budget Salman Khan starrer.
What can you tell us about your role in Radhe, which is currently playing in UAE cinemas and also on streaming channels in India?
So we have three baddies in Radhe. I am one of them, along with Randeep Hooda and Gautam Gulati.
How did you first meet Salman Khan and how did this role happen for you?
I met Salman sir in 2019. Just like any other fan, I went to meet him on the sets of Dabangg 3, where I got this opportunity to chat with him over a cup of coffee. He saw potential in me and after two months, he gave me this role.
What are your thoughts on Salman Khan?
Salman sir as a person I would say defines the true meaning of humanity. He is a very kind, down-to-earth person. Very compassionate and caring. He makes sure that people around him are taken care of, and are safe and happy. When I came for the shoot, I was taken care of very well and because of Salman sir’s kindness and generosity, I never even once felt like an outsider, I always felt at home.
Is this your first role in Bollywood?
Radhe: Your Most Wanted Bhai was my first movie in Bollywood. After I completed it I got the opportunity to act in another movie, Rohingya - People From Nowhere, directed by Haider Khan. We are awaiting its release on an OTT platform. I play the lead role as an army officer.
The director thought I was perfect for the role because of my army background. So for me it was not difficult at all, I know about weapons, fire and move tactics, an army officer’s conduct, how he sits, how he talks. It was my dream come true because I always wanted to play the role of an army officer.
As a former bodyguard and army man, what made you move into films? When did you first decide to try acting?
When I was in the army, I always wanted to have a great body and I had a passion for bodybuilding. What happened in 2013 was that my passion became an obsession and I wanted to compete in the international arena. That’s why I took voluntary retirement in 2013. I also won two gold medals for Bhutan at the Asian level. In 2017 I won the title of Mr Bhutan.
After I while I felt it was enough; I had done about five years of professional bodybuilding.
My friends suggested I try my luck in films because they thought I had the potential and talent that an action hero requires in Bhutan. In 2018 I just did a movie to test myself and check whether I could pursue an acting career or not! So that’s how things changed and the movie did very well - I won the Best Debut award. That’s how my journey to acting happened!
What can you tell us about Bhutanese films? Do these films have a lot of music and dance, like Bollywood films?
Bhutanese films are a good mix of the mythological and modern… I think a mix of Bollywood style and our own flavour! We do have a lot of dances, songs and music videos also, similar to Bollywood. The only difference is the scale and quality of the movie.
Because Bhutan has a very small population of about 7 to 8 lakh people, we have a very small market. Because of that we cannot compete with technical and other aspects of films in other countries. We mix Bollywood elements with our own tradition and culture for these films, where we have to mostly wear our own national dress.
Army training obviously instils discipline among many other qualities in an individual. How has your training and experience as an army man and bodyguard helped you in your movie career?
I consider myself very, very lucky that I got this opportunity to train at one of the most prestigious academies in the world, the National Defense Academy in Pune. So there, after completing three years of tough training, a boy turned into a man!
The physical training and its discipline is always there, but the most important thing that we learned and that they made us believe is that nothing is impossible in life. So they make us mentally so strong that we believe that if your mind wants it, your body will follow.
This is the main principle that has helped me in my life and work, whether it’s bodybuilding or movies.
In movies also, I follow the same principles - time management, discipline, and the mental strength to believe in yourself.
So yes, this army training has been a very major and crucial part of my life, that has helped me achieve whatever I set out to do in life.
What are your hopes for the future?
In future if I get good roles - especially an army role, or any action movie roles, if the character is good, if the role is good, then I will definitely take it. I really would like to test myself and check if I am versatile enough to do it or not. I like to challenge myself.